Thursday, October 11, 2012

What Chartering Could Have Been -

Deborah Meier.
Because charters are now an organized "movement" on behalf of ending public education (plus every other public enterprise?) without any interest in carrying out a nearly 60-year-old U.S. Supreme Court mandate (to integrate schools), it's important to expose them. They are also strong supporters, as a movement, for testing, high stakes, merit pay, and ending unions. I suspect it's a hopeless task to fight that agenda within the charters movement, but I admire those who do.

The part that scares me most is that this attack on public education goes along with an assumption long held by public school educators, too—an education philosophy that provides encouragement to those who've always said that those kids learn differently than more favored white and/or wealthy students. They encourage a dumbing down of education for precisely those whom earlier choice models argued should get what every rich man wants for his child, only more so. The only feature today's Deformers borrowed from the old reforms is choice, usually different choices for charters serving middle-class white students vs. those educating mostly poor African-American children. Too many have abandoned what we in New York City (and Chicago, Boston, etc.) saw as our real secret weapon: schools built around respect across lines of class, race, role, and age; built around curriculum, personalization, and accountability usually associated with the education of the ruling class. (The schools to which our presidents send their own children, for example.) The "Ten Essentials" were Ted Sizer's way of summarizing that spirit, which we expanded upon in our five Habits of Mind. They can't be reduced to a formula. But Ted believed, as I do, that we know respect when we see it even if it's hard to rate it numerically.

Too many of the charters, especially the chains, are particularly offensive to my view of respectfulness. They are modeled instead on characteristics that, at best, are found at military schools where the rich send their "troubled" youths. So, I suppose, there is a rich man's precedent for schooling modeled on prisons and treating kids as pre-felons.
So, you and I are on much the same page—no surprise?—in believing that what we need to figure out is how to re-structure school districts—big or small—to take better advantage of what chartering could have been. Changing the odds means doing so without dictating terms that undermine the essential purpose of building a stronger and more equitable democracy. It's hard to imagine a less level playing field than the one we have now, in school or out.
My definition of "ends," allowing for many different "means" is, I hope, consistent with our public obligations in return for public funding. Let's you and I lay out some possibilities for each other—and our readers—and invite tough (but not rigid or rigorous) critiques. Not easy to do at a time in American history when more than ever, asBillie Holiday sang: "Them that's got shall get, Them that's not shall lose, So the Bible said and it still is news."

Read the entire post here.

What Chartering Could Have Been - Bridging Differences - Education Week
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