From the Sunday T-P

Greg Richmond, president of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, a group that has vetted charter school applications for Louisiana, said fewer than 1 percent of the 4,000 charter schools in the country have some kind of selective testing or auditions and that most of them have an arts focus.

But he thinks it would be unfair to dismiss such schools outright as running counter to the spirit of the charter movement.

“When school districts create an elite high school that kids have to test into, nobody blinks,” he said. “So I am concerned that when school districts do this, it’s accepted, but when charters do it, it’s condemned. That is a double standard.”

The article itself is pretty good by T-P standards (even though it is the usual ridiculously-limited-sources article the T-P does on education, go read the whole thing) but this quote shows the often petulant reaction of charter school advocates when charter schools are criticized or looked at sideways or, sometimes, at all unless that look is already tilted toward fulsome praise and the declaration of a war won. What Mr. Richmond ignores is that when school districts create elite or selective admissions schools, it is a big damn stink, especially in systems with the kinds of nose-burning inequities as the NO system. The system was allowed to go bad then magnet schools were created to, largely, draw and keep white and/or middle-class families in the school system. A noble goal since an abandoned school system becomes no system at all, as we all know far too well. But it also created distortions and added fuel to generations-old community conflicts and did nothing to ease the sting, effects or legacy of racist policies in the city or its schools. (I am a magnet school graduate. And I knew and heard about more than a handful of white kids in my school whose entrance exam scores were 10-15 or even 20 points lower than mine and significantly below the alleged and public cutoff but there they were. How did that happen? I, by the way, scored in the 95th percentile.) This kind of pouty behavior and the hardcore sell of privatization will not make the system work and will only fool a small part of the people for a limited amount of time. The idea of “selling” the “new” schools to the non-public-school-attending public, those with kids in private schools and those with no children at all, is another noble goal but that “selling” should not be mistaken for community involvement or participation. I.e., I’m happy people with no children in the system are interested and getting involved but those voices and desires should not outweigh the wants, concerns and needs of the teachers, parents and children in the non-private schools. A non-parent’s idea of education and privatization can be not only different than reality and pragmatism but dangerously so. I do think you should know something about education before you start sticking your favorite ideologies into it. I don’t tell a mechanic how best to fix my car when all I know is the address of the dealership and how to check the oil and that I believe in better air quality for all people around the world. In what other field do non-experts have the first, middle and final say?

I get the feeling that the big players in what’s happening with the schools are all weighed heavily toward privatization/charterization regardless of effects, benefits, pitfalls, failures. (I have a whole ‘nother post of quotes on this one. If I could just have 2 more days in the week, household help and 3 more hours of sleep every night….) The idea is that the public sector cannot and does not work and only the skill set of private business and MBAs can save ___, in this case public schools. These advocates forget that not everything is a commodity and not everything can be treated as a commodity. People as commodities leads to personal violence, slavery and child abuse, among other things.

Charter schools have a place. They should not, though, be the whole damn place as far as the eye can see.

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