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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Yesterday Kai and I visited two city funded prek programs in carroll gardens and cobble hill. They serve the lower income community with clean and appropriate care for their kids on a sliding scale. The Warren Center, albeit it’s reminiscence to a clinic, showed a certain humanistic approach to the realities of what they were faced with being a city run program. The latin director who guided us through the school reflected on the problems of cut funds, removing hamburgers from the menu, expensive finger printing process on volunteers and lack of teachers in the afternoons. I liked her honesty and openness to look at the realities laid upon her and how she put forth her own ways of creatively coping with it. Little signs of flourishing showed here and there as herbs grew in potted beds on the roof top play ground, lively african american girls set up banquets in play time and vibrant art hung on the walls.

At Amico one entered with a similar clinical feeling, it’s halls were empty and yellowed, but clean. Our tour director was a young heavy woman with an overenthusiastic air who talked without pause and heaved as she climbed the school’s stairs. The first thing she did upon entering the 4 year old class that was in session was show us the bathroom. Was it to divert us from the fossilised head teacher instructing 10 wide eyed youth as she clapped her hands in a dead pan manner? Or the sickly obese assistant teacher sitting to the left who could barely walk across the room when she coldly assisted a child to wash his hands? How could this be I asked myself, that they could find a woman like that to be fit to teach? I’m not saying that a fat woman is not a good person, yet one must ask, that if a person is in such a state of severe health, how does that reflect on the vision they have of themselves and others.

My preference in regards to Jan was for him to go to the Warren Center, even if the class would consist mostly of girls and well what an experience for him, with his shock of blond hair and french tongue, to be embedded among such a diverse culture! Still my reflections after leaving both places was that why do city funded schools have to suffer such a depressed atmosphere? Why the clinical looking buildings, the obsession with hygiene and sterilizing sprays? There was a certain heaviness and lethargy. Why was music, art and yoga being cut? Surely in this large and abundant city there must be enough people who can volunteer their time twice a month for these children? And why would the city themselves, tax these schools so heavily with the weight of expensive finger printing costs ($150 x3 per teacher/staff)? We must be able to do better since right next door, ps. 32 and 58 (also public schools) are flourishing beyond belief with the support of the local community.

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