Memoirs of a textbook salesman

Because the textbook publisher where I worked for more than 30 years is closing its doors, I can now feel free to pen some of my "personally educating moments" while in educational sales.

Make no mistake, there are many dedicated people at Chicago Public Schools and, over the years, I got to meet many of them.  So if you are hoping for an earth shattering exposé about systematic CPS corruption you are going to be disappointed.

Instead, my memoirs (this is the fifth) are a record of some of my more enlightening personal experiences with CPS and are written from my conservative perspective.  I view them to be a compilation of, to steal an educational phrase, teachable moments - and that is why I am sharing them.

Back when I went to school just outside of Chicago in the 50's and 60's, Washington's Birthday and Lincoln's Birthday were schooldays off. Hard to believe, but these two school holidays were actually celebrated on the actual birthday of each President.

As a textbook salesman calling on Chicago schools starting with the 1980's, I remember when CPS first made Martin Luther King's Birthday a school day off. This was a somewhat controversial move in that Chicago schools were going it alone. Illinois schools outside of Chicago were not doing likewiset.

It has become self-evident to me over the years that school days off at CPS not only pay homage to the individual and his contributions, but honor his ethnicity as well. So Chicago schools are closed on King's Birthday to honor both Dr. King and the Chicago African-American community, Columbus Day honors Columbus and the Chicago-Italian community, and Casimir Pulaski (Revolutionary war hero) Day honors Pulaski and the large Chicago-Polish population.  

I remember how surprised I was when I found out for the first time that CPS was closed for Casimir Pulaski Day. I once joked to a CPS history teacher (who I felt very comfortable with),  "If you are going to close Chicago schools on account of an under the radar historical figure like Pulaski, you should certainly make a school holiday in honor of Haym Solomon, the great financier of the American Revolutionary War effort."  With a wry smile, knowing I was Jewish, he told me, "You guys should lobby for it."

I know it might not seem very important but in my opinion the history of school holidays that I have been witness to over the last 50 years seems to be indicative of a larger problem in the American educational system (and in our country).

Do not get me wrong, I am not against studying cultural diversity in the schools, but when it comes to schooldays off, it seems our school holidays have gone awry. We stopped honoring George Washington like we used to, we instead pay our respects to all our past Presidents on a certain Monday in February (preferring not to separate the great ones from the lousy ones). Our first priority has become the three-day weekend. Lobbyists and teacher unions have to have their say. Ethnicity must be considered.

I remember a CPS teacher lamenting the hoopla surrounding the first MLK school holiday and confiding to me, "Rather than a school day off in honor of Dr. King, I think he would have much preferred a 100% attendance day instead."

I tend to agree with that history teacher. I also think Washington, Lincoln, Columbus, and Pulaski, were they alive, would likewise appreciate a 100% school attendance sentiment in their memories.  I'm pretty sure Haym Solomon would too.