This week’s arctic chilled weather raised an important issue about schools and our society.
Schools across Chicagoland suburbs closed on Wednesday and Thursday when temperatures dropped below zero. The wind chill was predicted Wednesday to be minus-35 degrees, although it was higher.
That’s pretty darn cold, though.
On Friday, even though the temperatures were just as bad, or worse, schools were opened. The temperatures were still in the single digits, and the wind chill was subzero.
So why were some schools closed one day but opened the next, and the weather was the same?
Our schools may be more about baby-sitting to help working parents, than they are about educating our kids.
Schools opened Friday because parents were griping that having children at home makes it hard for them to work. It cut into snow days and will extend the school year into summer vacations.
I get it. It’s a real problem. Working parents often have no other options. Who will watch the kids while school is closed? Do they take days off from work and lose benefits?
Although it did seem strange to me that while schools couldn’t open, community centers could, providing activities for the kids. Does that make sense?
Some people will argue school closings really have to do with the power of unions. Others will say its politics, trying to keep parents happy when in fact you can’t keep parents of school kids happy at all.
If kids don’t do well in school, parents blame the schools, not themselves, or their kids. The lives of parents with school children are built around their children’s school schedule.
When I was a kid – a true cliché – I went to school regardless of the weather. I walked to school 12 blocks, four times a day. In the winter. In storms. They closed schools during the 1967 Blizzard, but only because the snow was so high no one could walk. Trudging (Chicago-ese for walking in heavy snow) through the streets literally was like climbing K2, the deadliest mountain and only second highest to Mt. Everest. (I learned that in school.)
Yes, we walked to school in any weather, including blizzards. Why can’t kids do it today? They all take busses. Their parents drive them the few blocks. I see it because I drive my son to school every morning. My wife picks him up. Kids are spoiled. They stay awake for hours playing Xbox, but can’t stay awake five minutes to read a book.
I actually feel sorry for the school officials. They don’t know what to do to make parents happy. If a kid gets bad grades, it’s the schools fault. If the kid is a genius, credit the parents’ genes.
Someone should explain all this to Mother Nature. But I don’t think Mother Nature really cares, especially in this ugly season of Global Warming.
PARIS MASSACRES: I don’t know anyone who is not outraged by the brutality of the killings in Paris last week. Terrorists massacred 12 people at a satire newspaper office that has published photos attacking Islam. I think the cartoons are disgraceful, and racist, too.
But I think the terrorism and killing is even more shocking and more wrong. But don’t paint an entire religion based on the actions of three criminals. Every Muslim I know condemned the killings. Many Christians I know condemned “Muslims.”
Don’t blame an entire people for the actions of a few.
Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall reporter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.