Black, Latino, and low-income families know that they will go to sleep angry, and wake up angry the next damn day, and watching plays like Exit Strategy gives many of these people — including this writer — a good reason to be as angry as hell.
Playwright Ike Holter’s story, which got its inspiration from the 1988 passage of the Chicago School Reform Act, is told through seven characters. He effectively conveys the frustration of massive school closings, which have had a damaging effect on inner city school systems — and on those who rely on them — since then.
The term “exit strategy” was originally used in a military context. While watching the play, I was reminded of the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era, which failed because of the lack of a good exit strategy; the victorious North failed to consider the repercussions of leaving everyone to their own devices. Now here we are with a country that is reconstructing its entire public school system, and doing so without a specific plan in place for our children. Just as in Reconstruction, the people most affected by the changes underway are for the most part unconsidered by, if not invisible to, those jockeying for position. It’s not surprising that the only student portrayed in the play was Donnie, magnificently played by Brandon J. Pierce.
In 2013, 23 Philadelphia schools in low-income neighborhoods closed down, with the School Reform Committee citing lack of funding as the reason. Simultaneously, there was “Plenty for Prisons,” with construction of a $400-million prison underway. Even before those closings, many hailed the charter school system as the new fix for our failing schools, though it’s becoming clear that they may not be the answer. We are far from giving inner city youth what they really need, a fair and solid education that is equal to that of children in affluent white areas.
We as a community — grandmothers like myself, and other parents and teachers — entreat the powers that be not to be so quick to think that this so-called School Reform “Reconstruction” can be handled by local authorities. They have already proven that they cannot produce what is needed for our children.
For Dan Rottenberg's review, click here.
For Mark Cofta's review, click here.