The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Illinois schools:
Textbooks as antiques

Apr 24, 2006

Students in public schools throughout Illinois have out-of-date and broken textbooks. This was revealed in a study carried out by The Chicago Tribune. When students from Burbank, a working class suburb near Chicago, visited the Adler Planetarium, they were asked how many moons Jupiter has. They answered 16, which is what their ten-year-old science textbook says. But more than 60 moons are known today. The number is not important, but it shows that these students have missed out on the last ten years worth of developments in science. For example, now we know that many stars besides our sun have planets revolving around them. Nor does their textbook talk about genetic engineering.

At Richards Career Academy High School on Chicago’s South Side, children learn from a 1988 book that the Soviet Union is the big rival of the U.S. and Ronald Reagan is president. In other words, students are being taught “current events” from a book that is 18 years old. Their books leave them unequipped to understand the world around them that they have to live in.

The state of Illinois spends only a miserable $14 per student each year for books. Textbooks today typically cost between $51 and $86 each – at a high profit to the publishing companies – so the state is nowhere near buying one new book for each student a year. What a statement about how little the state of Illinois values the education of students!

It’s left up to local school districts to buy books. With little money given to them, they often turn to the parents.

Some parents can do that. In wealthy New Trier Township on the North Shore, parents spend nearly $400 per child for books. In Elmhurst parents spend $500 for a freshman’s books. But in the poor schools of Chicago, where most of the parents obviously don’t have that type of money, the children make do with old, out-of-date and defective books.

Instead of an equal education for everyone, the reality is that children of the wealthy are well prepared to enter the best colleges and take their place in modern society, while workers’ children are given an inferior education. It’s not surprising that only 7% of Chicago high school freshman complete college. The vast majority are being prepared to be dumped onto the labor market, to face years of unemployment and at best low-paying jobs. This is “equality” of education under capitalism.