When I was a high school teacher in the mid-80s, each of the teachers was allowed x number of copies per semester. I had 5 classes of about 28 kids each. Want to know how many copies I was allowed to make for the whole semester? 150. That’s right. 150 impressions on the xerox machine. So I figured out how to run the ancient blue-chemical mimeograph machine in the corner of the Social Studies Resource Room.
Another vignette: One day during a summer school session, I broke up a fight in the hall. My shirt was torn, and frankly I couldn’t afford to buy too many shirts in those days. I went to the principal and reported the incident, and asked naively, “How do I get reimbursed for my shirt which was torn in the line of duty?” Instead of laughing out loud, the patient man said, “There is no budget for that, but tell you what: I’ll open up the supply closet and you can take a box full of stuff.” Yes, that was the compensation for my torn shirt: the principal unlocked the supply closet, which was normally shut tight. That’s the kind of poverty mentality that pervades the public schools. And if you think it’s gotten better since the 1980s, you haven’t been reading the newspapers.
So I’m a little ambivalent about the Donors Choose thing. On the one hand, it allows you to give direct help for specific purposes to classrooms in your town. And they are super good, almost too good, about accountability. Not only do you get an acknowledgement of your donation, you get pictures of the happy, happy kids using the art supplies or whatever you have donated.
On the other hand, there’s a certain pathetic quality about the requests. $200 for 70 copies of a book for kids to read. $250 for a set of math resource materials. $700 for a classroom set of dictionaries.
Dictionaries, people. There are elementary school classrooms in this country without enough dictionaries. How many millions of dollars did that Michael Jackson memorial cost? What the fuck are we doing as a country?
If you can see the website through your tears of rage, I suggest using it to find a worthy project, something you can make a difference on, and giving them money. And then, when you get back the thank-yous and the pictures and all, consider forming a permanent relationship with the school or the teacher you helped.