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

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Why Does KIPP Not Look Like Sidwell?

Below is an open online letter from Ira Socol to the President.  I have ventured to add a few comments and a couple of video clips.  
Dear President Obama,

I wanted to discuss the things you believe are "innovative in education," just so I might assure you that in this field - in the field of America's future - your administration is doing irreparable harm.

 "Students at both KIPP and Achievement First schools follow a system for classroom behavior invented by Levin and Feinberg called Slant, which instructs them to sit up, listen, ask questions, nod and track the speaker with their eyes." Yes, the first thing KIPP teaches is Calvinist church behaviour. "They all called out at once, “Nodding!"' Yes. Stare at your master. Sit still. Nod to demonstrate your compliance. Speak in unison according to the script.

Mr. President, this is not innovation. We know this formula. It drove the colonialist education systems of Wales and Ireland in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was the hallmark of British Colonial Schools from Lagos to Cape Town to Delhi. It was the path followed by the U.S. government's Indian Schools.

It is the well-worn path of imperial cultures. Force those not born "like" the elite to first convert, and then run in a futile attempt to "catch up."

Mr. President, is that what you would want for your daughters?

The KIPP "SLANT" idea, shown below being introduced by a smug rich guy I cannot identify, is reductionist education which assumes that children of color are incapable of the kind of rich learning available to their wealthy, white counterparts.
[Ira, that old white guy's name is Tom Snyder, who used to develop and market some excellent collaborative learning software before such notions were made irrelevant by the present era of Test and Punish that the Oligarchs call accountability.  No, no, not for the banksters and casino capitalists, but for the fat cat teachers.  But I digress.  Now, however, instead of developing software, Snyder is developing tools for the K-12 corporate classroom like contracts that students and teachers sign based on the KIPP chain gang work model.  Listen again carefully to his intro: "It's not a metaphor, it's an acronym for the KIPP schools, it's the word SLANT, and a lot of you might have read about this.  These are school, the KIPP schools, are working very well in Brooklyn and the Bronx, where, I don't know the kind of districts you guys are from, but these are challenging [knowing nod to communicate black and scary], these are highly volatile, highly poor, highly damaged, and they've been working in Chicago, Louisiana, uh, I don't, off the top of my head I don't know the other cities . . . .]

But let us notice, white kids don't learn that way...

President Obama, I believe that every child in this nation deserves the kind of creative, exciting, and culturally open education your children are getting at Sidwell Friends. And I believe that forcing a traditional concept of attention on children in order to make them "white enough" to be unthreatening second-class citizens is wrong on every level.

Let me quote this from the Middle School at Sidwell: "We seek academically talented students of diverse cultural, racial, religious and economic backgrounds. We offer these students a rich and rigorous interdisciplinary curriculum designed to stimulate creative inquiry, intellectual achievement and independent thinking in a world increasingly without borders.  We encourage these students to test themselves in athletic competition and to give expression to their artistic abilities.  We draw strength from silence—and from the power of individual and collective reflection."

Now let us see how much less KIPP kids get: "KIPP Academy Lynn Charter School will create an environment where the students of Lynn will develop the academic skills, intellectual habits and character traits necessary to maximize their potential in high school, college and the world beyond." "Academic Skills - Calculate accurately - Read fluently - Write effectively - Comprehend fundamental knowledge." "KIPP Academy Lynn will relentlessly focus on high student performance on standardized tests and other objective measures."

What research is it, Mr. President, that Secretary Duncan cites to indicate that the students of KIPP Academy Lynn Charter School deserve so much less - of life, of creativity, of respect, of freedom, than your daughter's classmates at Sidwell?

No Mr. President, KIPP Academies are not innovation. They are the oldest colonialist form of oppression in the school manual. They are institutions of the elite's cultural power, and their purpose is to protect the elites by ensuring that underclass children will never catch up.

But, if you really want to prove me wrong, send your daughters to a KIPP Academy. Your i3 grants mean there should be one coming to the White House neighbourhood soon.

- Ira Socol
Thanks, Ira.  Here are some more of the dangerous black children that Tom Snyder has contracts for, this time learning how to walk the line in the parrot learning chain gangs that became so popular during the Reading First heyday of corruption that was led by the direct instruction gurus at the University of Oregon, the same ones who manipulated Reading First so that 46 states ended up adopting these methods for Title I schools, i. e. poor children:

Notice the invisible straightjackets that the children are wearing later in the clip:

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