Education: How Public Schools Shaped My Life

For the next few weeks, Progressive Massachusetts is highlighting one aspect of our Shared Prosperity Agenda, having our members write their perspectives on why Education, Healthcare, Housing, Jobs and Wages, and Progressive Revenue are important to them.

For our first week, we are focusing on Education — Within five years, we want free, publicly funded education for all residents from pre-K through Community, Vocational, or Four-Year College, but a good first step would be universal, publicly funded pre-K available for all residents.

This is part three of our three-part series on education; this post is written by Maxwell Morrongiello (ProgressiveMax). Thank you!


In the first part of this series, Progressive Massachusetts made a case for the economic argument of providing free Pre-K and Higher Education. This is a critical piece of our education policy, but it’s not the whole picture. Education is more than just graduating high school, in order to go to a good college, to get a good job. It is much more than that. We spend years of our lives in our school system, and our time there shapes not just our future success, but who we are as people.

School was very tough for me growing up. I was an outcast and had trouble fitting in. Later in my childhood, I was diagnosed with mild Asperger Syndrome, which is a less severe form of autism. I was viewed as different in school, and was ostracized for it. Life was a tough time for me growing up, but it shaped who I am as a person today, and would not change it.

I came to that conclusion later in life when I started attending college at a state university. I was taking a sociology class at the time which really opened my eyes as to how our society shapes us as people. Before, I was convinced that what I went through was my fault, and that I was the sole person responsible for my experiences. I was wrong. There is an expression that it takes a community to raise a child. Education is more than drilling facts into your head. People learn how to interact with each other in our school system. These interactions are key to our future development. When kids say bad things, or ostracize others, that are reflected not just of our education system, but are a microcosm of our culture. Our concepts of masculinity and competitiveness come from our time in our schools. These traits, while beloved by some, aren’t necessarily ideal. They influence our lives well into adulthood. If you want gender equality, it starts in our education system. If you want to end our “Greed is good” mentality, where do you think it comes from? It starts at childhood. Our schools need the resources for us not to just memorize facts, but to instil values, and show us how to interact with one another as a community. We need to teach not the values of testosterone, and over-confidence, but the values of evidence. Children grow through experience and role-play. But to do that, we need to fundamentally change the toxic culture of our schools system, of only focusing on standardized tests, and focus on the social and civil growth our youth.

However, this will not be easy. My family had to fight tooth and nail to get the accommodations I needed to succeed. This is a fight that many parents face, pitting them against the school system. The school system resists because they don’t have the funding to do what is right. This is not just about special education. To change the culture, we need investment in the whole system. Unfortunately, the first thing to get the axe during budget cuts, are music, the arts, and other electives. This is a step in the wrong direction. In order to change the system, we to commitment for better funding, and to actually sit down and collaborate on how to redefine the fabric of our schools.

It’s no coincidence that I came to these conclusions during college at a public school. Higher Education for me wasn’t just about getting a job. I have always loved to learn, and college opened my eyes to the world. Everything I learned at different courses in college, though in different disciplines, was all related to each other some way. College taught me unique concepts, which were different lenses to view the world. To top things off, my social sphere blossomed in college. I had lots friends in college, after having none in high school. College, like K-12, isn’t just about the classes; it’s about learning your place in life.

It comes down to this, if we want our society to be a bunch of suits, that make a lot of cash, but find no fulfillment in life, then we are on the right course. But human beings yearn for fulfillment, fulfillment that cannot be obtained through material goods alone. We need to recognize that the goal of government isn’t just to provide economic prosperity, but allow us to enrich our lives with depth and meaning. Only then can we truly prosper.

~ Maxwell Morrongiello (ProgressiveMax)


See this on our blog and see the whole series here.

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Discuss

8 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Great piece, Max!

    Thank you for your honesty and, as always, your smart take. In a country as rich as ours, why are any communities struggling to fund education? Why are any children not getting the edu resources they need?

  2. if we want our society to be a bunch of suits,

    If we want our society to be a bunch of suits, we measure our success with the DOW. If we want our society to be a bunch of suits we talk about “Jobs” and nothing else, not heath care, not secure retirement, not stable families, just “Jobs”. If we want our society to be a bunch of suits, we do not talk about maternal leave for parents, paid sick leave for employees, or anything other than “work work work”. If we want our society to be a bunch of suits, we cut foreign language, music, art, liberal studies, and the rest from our schools and focus on “skill sets” that employers can put to work. If we want our society to be a bunch of suits we rig the game so that the fruit of the laborer flows to the suit and not the blue collar and we do so because of the belief that the suit is the “Job Creator” and that Jobs are the most important.

    I had trouble in school too and while not as much as yours, the source of the problem seems the same. Glad to see that you (and I) made it out!

    I’ll just quote John Lennon.

    “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

  3. BRAVO , MAX !

    Thanks so much for sharing your moving story with us. Well done.

    Your friend,

    Fred

  4. Love this post

    I could spend all day commenting on this, but I’ll just keep it at one thing:

    When the equivalent of a Prop 2.5 vote failed in my mostly blue-collar Detroit suburb before my senior year of high school, the choice of cuts was very interesting. All fall varsity sports were cancelled. What this did (as opposed to cutting those things that Max lists as the usual targets) is really get people’s attention. Another vote was held before mid-year and passed.

    • Can't 'like' this post enough

      Frankly, I value my Cambridge Public School education more than my University of Chicago education. Chicago taught me about how to be an intellectual, but Cambridge taught me how to be a global citizen in a way Chicago never could. I was already prepared to interact with people from different cultural backgrounds, different classes, and different walks of life. I was unaffected and unafraid of going to the parts of Chicago that the University told us not to go to. Frankly, I think it put me ahead of my U Chicago classmates from Nobles and BB&N.

      Strong public schools are the key to producing smart, globally aware, and sophisticated citizens. My love of literature, poetry (which I still write every now and then), photography, sailing, acting, and appreciating cinema and smart television all come from great teachers and great programs I was afforded to at the Cambridge Public Schools.

      My fiancee and I are in total agreement that we want our kids to go to public schools like we did, and honestly, we want them to go to public colleges too. I don’t regret going to U Chicago, but there are days when I think a public college would’ve been more affordable and practical, and that ‘name’ has opened far fewer doors than I expected it to. All the policy jobs I interviewed with in Boston have come from connections and networks I established through my opportunities at the Cambridge Public Schools.

      • good goal, but be ready to implement plan B

        My fiancee and I are in total agreement that we want our kids to go to public schools like we did, and honestly, we want them to go to public colleges too.

        While a good goal, it will depend on exactly who your kids are. If they happen to fall within the parameters for which a public school works well (learning type, able to deal with school schedule, no big physical or mental health issues) then there is a good chance the public schools will work out just fine. I fit into that mold, but neither of my kids have. And it is these kids who I describe as “in the middle” – not having issues serious enough for an IEP – that are not necessarily served well by public schools (it will differ both by kid and by school system).

        So just keep that in mind…

    • They cut sports?!

      Hallelujah! Somebody needs a Profiles in Courage Award for that. You would think closing libraries, schools, and fire stations would be sufficient to get people’s attention.

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Sun 30 Apr 2:54 AM