CPS strike provokes reflection of GBS privilege

Illustration by Esther Yun

Illustration by Esther Yun

Emily Blumberg, asst. opinions editor

I was walking down the stairs in the old pit when I overheard a girl telling her friend she can’t believe how hard her life is right now. She complained that her teachers were being difficult and she couldn’t wait for her stressful sports season to end. I wasn’t surprised; this type of complaining is common at our school. However, as I continued my walk through the busy lunch hallway, it seemed as though I was entering a black hole of discontent, and it got me thinking: what is everyone complaining about?

I do admit that I sometimes feel worn out and occasionally express this frustration to my friends. We are all guilty of this. If you’re not, you’re lying. We take hard courses, and more often than not, feel pressure to overachieve. The competitive nature of our school makes it impossible not to compare our academic performance to those around us. Outside of classes, a variety of extracurriculars are at our disposal. From the fine arts to sports, GBS holds a prestigious reputation that we all want to be a part of upholding. If you need another example, I am writing this story for the third time because sometimes, you feel like your best just isn’t good enough. So I get it. High school can be hard. We all feel it sometimes, but I want to offer you another perspective.

From Oct. 17 to Oct. 31, Chicago Public Schools were not in session due to a teacher strike. You may be aware of the CPS teacher strike, but if you are not familiar with the meaning behind this protest, I will break it down for you. On Oct. 23, USA Today stated, “As of right now, the unions are still pushing for smaller class sizes, higher wages for the lowest-paid staffers, and more support staff, such as school nurses, librarians and social workers.”

Have you visited the nurse’s office lately? I stopped by last year when I was in need of some cough drops. I, along with about 85 other students came to see the nurse that day, the average number of patients per school day, according to the GBS nurses. Multiply that by the number of school days we have and suddenly, our nurses’ importance seems to significantly increase. A simple solution for a migraine or injured leg is readily provided at our school. Many of us don’t think too hard about it, but imagine the nurse just disappearing? This, unfortunately, is a harsh reality that CPS students frequently endure, as Chalkbeat.org acknowledges: “Currently, CPS employs about 300 nurses for over 500 schools,” with most nurses rotating schools on the daily.

Towards the center of GBS, you will find the library, which is often buzzing with busy students. For one reason or another, we have all needed to stop by this enormous room stocked with thousands of books. However, because of the confusing nature of the Dewey Decimal system, we have all admittedly gotten help from one of the many knowledgeable librarians at our school. Within the library is also the TLC, where an overwhelming number of tutors are responsible for assisting students academically. Anyone who has taken advantage of this resource sees just how exceptional it is. You may find even more appreciation for the TLC after hearing that, according to the Chicago Tribune, “As it is, more than 200,000 Chicago public school children are eligible to receive tutoring under the federal law, but only 80,000 are actually getting it.”

How many kids, would you estimate are in each of your classes? 20 to 30? Many students hope to have enough so that the teacher will not notice their conversation in the back of the class. It seems as though sometimes avoiding interaction with a teacher is prided at our school. Like it or not, however, you cannot avoid these conversations because of how well our school balances class sizes. In Chicago Public Schools, the expectation of students per class greatly differs from that of GBS, as the class sizes, as stated by the Chicago Teacher Union, “are among the highest in Illinois,” as they claim that last year’s average elementary class size was 25 students, 15% higher than most Illinois schools. This disparity may lead you to appreciate how invested our educators are in our academic success.

I’d like to think that we receive a very good education. We have qualified teachers, inclusive extracurricular programs, and overall meet the standards of an ideal school. Yet, we are so quick to see the flaws in this system. According to US News and World Report, GBS is the 24th highest ranked high school in Illinois out of 647, and 454th highest of over 23,000 public schools nationally. Correct me if I’m wrong, but GBS doesn’t seem to deserve the criticism many students appear to be giving it.

Our privilege causes us to display unintentional ignorance. We don’t mean to be absent-minded about the truth, but how clearly can we see how fortunate our lives our when that’s all we’ve ever known? I’ve offered you another perspective to consider. Sympathize with these CPS students, if you will, but at least apprehend the severity of your own problems. Not to say that our issues should be overlooked, but viewing them from a different point of view might allow us to recognize that this much complaining at our school just isn’t necessary.