"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, August 07, 2006

John Stossel Is a Liar

ABC's 20/20 with John Stossel will rerun its documentary "Stupid In America: How We Are Cheating Our Kids" on Friday, September 1st at 10:00 PM EST. Watch the two-minute teaser on this broadcast.

Warning: don't eat before you watch this.

Some tidbits:

"You can give public schools all the money in America and it will not be enough. Everyone has been conned."

This from Ben Chavis, the principal of American Indian Charter School in Oakland. Chavis takes great pride in the fact that
  • his school has no computers
  • his school has no janitorial staff - students pick up trash and set up the lunchroom themselves
  • PE sometimes consists of students running around the block
  • he publicly shames students who have broken the rules
  • he pays students cash -- up to $100 -- in exchange for desired behavior
His rationale? Chavis says, "I'm preparing them for the real world."

I actually agree with him on this one. He is preparing them for the real world.
  • No computers, so they will be prepared for a life without information access and information literacy.
  • Picking up trash, setting up lunch tables, and other janitorial work prepares them for a life in the service industry at minimum wage.
  • Being shamed publicly helps students internalize their frustration and blame themselves for their failures.
  • Learning in exchange for money helps students understand that there is no inherent value in learning and that all good behavior is to be rewarded with cash, i.e., why do anything that does not result in direct monetary gain?
Of course, this "alternative" school -- like all the other high discipline, test-centric schools that have popped up around the country as "success" stories -- has raised test scores. But at what price? And is this really what learning is about in what Jim Horn calls "chain-gang schools"?

See the piece in the SF Chronicle on this school.

Here's an excerpt:

The 130 students at the school, in grades six through nine, follow strict rules. They must wear waist-high dark-colored pants with white shirts -- no jewelry, makeup or brightly colored hair accessories.

Most of the school day is spent in one classroom with one teacher, who moves with the students to higher grades. The day begins with three hours of math and language arts, followed by a 20-minute lunch. Forty-five minutes a day are devoted to physical education.

Arts are allowed only after school. And there are no computers. Chavis believes they bring mischief -- theft, pornography and unforeseen costs.

Students have hours of homework most nights, and two weeks of summer school are mandatory.

Those with good grades and perfect attendance all year are rewarded with spending money from Chavis' own pocket -- up to $100 depending on the student's age. Breaking a school rule, such as not completing homework, being tardy or breaking the dress code, means an automatic detention.

Repeat offenders are subject to public embarrassment. Those students must stand in front of other classes as Chavis or a teacher exposes their misconduct.

"An eighth-grader hates to be sent back to a sixth-grade class," Chavis said. "I want them to be embarrassed. I'm preparing them for the real world."

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