The thing I see in the play that does parallel City College is educators being convinced that their job is a business transaction rather than a public service. ~ Gregory Keech, the department chair of the ESL Program at City College of San Francisco identifies obstacles to providing free public education


Gregory Keech on obstacles to free public education

A Lesson with Gregory Keech

Department Chair of the ESL (English as a Second Language) Program at City College of San Francisco


Since you have been the chair of the ESL department at City College, what have you seen to be the biggest obstacle to providing free public education?

One obstacle is seeing education as a business model rather than as a public service. We have a certain number of students and we get funded for that number of students. But if we don’t have that number, we don’t get that funding.  We in this country are forced to look at schools and think “We are not making enough profit, we are not getting enough students to make enough money.” If I don’t have 20 students in my class, they will want to cut the class in my department.


How do the events in the play reflect what happened at City College?

I think that in the attack on City College, there was some background of privatization. There was privatization thinking behind remodeling the school to act better but I don’t think it was a privatization scheme per se. The thing I see in the play that does parallel City College is educators being convinced that their job is transaction. I want to loosely quote Michael Funk  who is responsible for after school programs at the California Department of Education. He said at a conference I attended “Educators have been convinced that our job is transaction but our real job is transformation.” We saw transformation in the play with the hero of the story – Thomas Jones.  At the end what happened between his teacher and him allowed him to free himself. What he saw as boring became valuable because his teacher made a difference in his mind.

Coming Soon “Never Silent: The San Francisco Mime Troupe Podcast!”

Get excited for a brand new SFMT podcast! Meet the Assistant Tour Management Intern, Gabriella Sanchez and former Collective member, Ed Holmes to learn more about Commedia Dell’Arte, Melodrama and the Mime Troupe Style! Whether you’ve been with us since the beginning or are newcomer, this is the podcast for you! Check our social media because more information will be coming out soon on when the release and where to find it!


  • Get involved in the democratic governance bodies in local school sites
  • Know who funds the school board member elections
  • Know where the money is coming from
  • Demand at the local state and national level that the resources for schools are not adequate
  •  Support the passing of proposition 55 which will maintain school funding

Trish Gorham, president of the Oakland Education Association, suggests ways for community members to help save their public schools

Trish Gorham on steps to tackle the problem

A Lesson with Trish Gorham

President of the Oakland Education Association


How do the events in the play reflect what’s happening in the Oakland school district?

The events in the play are eerily similar to what’s happening in Oakland right now. It’s spot on in terms of the conflicting interests coming into public schools. People come in with flim flam and it’s bought! You saw us hold up signs saying ‘beware of the philanthro-capitalists.’ It used be that schools would write a grant outlining their vision and philanthropists would fund the proposal.  Nowadays philanthropists will provide funding but only if schools follow their curriculum. Corporations will provide schools with these resources IF schools follow their curriculum without any kind of tinkering, that is without allowing a teacher to make professional decisions about  whether the curriculum is appropriate or not. The character of the mother in the play – Lavinia Jones absolutely portrays what we see among members of the political class today. They will accept money for their campaign from a corporation. They think they can control what will happen even though the money is from a source that can control them. That’s a big fallacy. The money will rule if people decide to take it.

Having watched ‘Schooled’ and having a protest history of advocating for public education, can you suggest ways in which we, the people, can protect our schools from being controlled by corporations and other individuals who may not know what is best for the students?

People need to get involved in the most boring level unfortunately. You have to get down to where the decisions are made. There are true democratic governance bodies in each school site in California and getting involved in those school site councils, knowing who funds the school board member elections, knowing where the money is coming from and really demanding at the local state and national level that the resources for schools are not adequate, is vital. For example, California is the 6th largest economy but 46th in funding for students! People also need to get out and pass proposition 55 which will maintain school funding.


Meet Lisa, one of our Actors!

Lisa and her sister straight out of Lisa’s college album!

Who was your favorite high school teacher?

My favorite teachers were my Choir and Drama teacher. It wasn’t so much that they were art teachers but the fact that they represented how to be in the world, in your adulthood. We were studying a specific subject but they brought the quality of who they were as a people fully into the classroom. They would bring in  life experiences and current events into the classroom and we would talk about it.  What is it that we can do in our 15 year-old-bodies and as we continue to get older? Their classes were a reflection of what art can open up for people. History and politics inform the art, the music we are studying and the reason why we are putting on a certain play.

Was there any high school  performance that you remember today?

I didn’t really do much theater at my high school but I did a lot of theater with a company in town. Throughout high school I was part of a theater apprenticeship, which taught me a lot about the backstage.  We did a production  of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the director’s vision of the set was to make it completely out of steel. We had to weld the entire set to make it look like an adult jungle gym. There was something really wonderful about knowing that welding huge chunks of the set was my contribution to the show and that people had to be safe on it. The following summer we did Jesus Christ Superstar and I had to weld a huge cross. The actor was holding onto it as it flew onto the stage so again the cross had to be safe. It felt really cool to look at  my craftsmanship and be like “Yeah I want to be an actor but I also want to be a person who can step in and do anything in theater!”

Can you recall your best high school prank?

I went to a really small private high school and at the time I was there, the student body was 100 maybe 120 people. In my senior year I was the student body president, much like Michiko from ‘Schooled! Every year the senior class had to do a prank but couldn’t tell the administration when they were going to do it. During my senior year, at midnight, we decided to do the Jonestown Massacre by chalking out each other’s bodies in the school courtyard  (there were 28 of us in the class) and putting yellow cautionary tape all around. The next morning we all cut school to spend the whole day hiking and picnicking. What we didn’t count on was that the fog was going to roll in that morning. The chalk didn’t last! There was just cautionary tape everywhere. When our class didn’t show up to school the next morning, everyone knew we were playing hooky and the prank sort of fell flat.

Looking back, if you could say something to your student self, what would it be?

I don’t know if I’d believe it but I would tell myself to relax and not to stress out so much.  Enjoy life and try to find happiness in whatever you are doing. Tap into that place of enjoyment. Studying and doing well doesn’t have to be torturous. You don’t have to be horribly miserable to do well. Failing can be even better than succeeding because it can show you how you can do better next time.