Part of the story we are told about how the world works is that we should have faith in institutions. In the short term, that story has proven to be true. In my current job, I come in at 9am, do my work, leave at 6pm, and twice a month a predetermined amount of money is deposited into my account.
In hindsight, the educational institutions that were supposed to be the solid foundation upon which my future is built have either had cracks in their foundations or have completely crumbled.
My elementary school is closing this year
I was part of the first class of Beginning with Children School in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The story of this school’s inception is captured in Getting to Bartlett Street: Our 25-Year Quest to Level the Playing Field in Education. It’s a story of politics and drama that takes place before the charter movement in New York ever started. Beginning with Children became a charter school after I left and as of February 2016, is slated to close its doors due to poor academic performance. Rising from the ashes of this institution is Beginning with Children Charter School 2.
My high school almost closed in 2012
Nazareth Regional High School, one of the last remaining large Catholic high schools in New York City, almost closed in 2012 because it was under-enrolled and not fiscally sustainable. Attendance went down from at least 700 students when I graduated in 2004 to 311 in 2012. When reports that the school was going to shut down became public, 2,500 alumni donated money (including two who donated $3 million each). The school’s long-term financial picture isn’t great unless they can increase enrollment.
My college had to cut 25 programs and 23 faculty positions
In a decision that was likely financially necessary but politically unpopular, my alma mater cut 25 programs and 23 faculty positions last year to make up a $9 million deficit. The school community is still reeling from these cuts. This is due at least partly to the fact that they were made by the new president, who has only been in the position since 2014.
On the bright side, my graduate school is fine. Harvard’s endowment of $37 billion keeps it safe from most of the issues that have affected my other schools.
Ultimately, all of this uncertainty in the sustainability of the schools that I’ve gone to has created a distrust with institutions I’m supposed to trust in the long term. It is why the more that I can diversify my talent and not rely on a single organization to take care of me forever, the better off I am.