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

Friday, January 28, 2011

KIPP Has Always Abandoned the Neediest Children

The master of soft pretzel logic, Jay Mathews, uses his national stage at the Washington Post to promote the testing industry, the online diploma mill, Kaplan U., (whose profits keep WaPo afloat), and KIPP, Inc.

Ever since Cheney's boys rolled the KIPPsters onto the stage of the 2000 GOP Convention for the world to see what two good white boys can do with a room of unruly multicultural renegades, KIPP, Inc. has been the favorite charity for white conservatives and neoliberals who view KIPP's anti-cultural, total compliance and segregated workhouses as just what the new eugenics demands.

KIPP, in turn, has collected hundreds of millions of bucks from philanthro-capitalists and is now operating a hundred or so schools, staffed primarily with white female missionaries fresh from Brown and Bowdoin who sign up for a two year stint to learn how to teach on poor people's children, all the while cementing their overbearing entitlement as cultural imperialists aimed to convert the urban heathens into positivized, happied-up drones who answer "how high?" when the overseer says "Jump." It's sort of junior corporate training camps within minimum security prison environments. Everyone gets a check based on behavior that can only be cashed at the KIPP company store.

From George Bush to Arne Duncan to Bill Gates, KIPP has been and is the cat's meow when it comes to re-educating the black and the brown for corporate consumption.  KIPP offers a bargain-basement solution for what Duncan refers to as the "civil rights issue of this generation."  It proves that children can be successfully blinded to the ravages of their own poverty, except, of course, when they are shot down on the way home after a 10 hour day of being KIPP-notized.  Otherwise, they can aspire to the fate of those who have achieved cultural neutering while remaining racially oppressed.  They will become the cabin boys (and girls) of their own fate, sailing on a prison ship toward a land where freedom beckons to those who can afford it.

And so when Jay Mathews asks the question, "Is KIPP abandoning its neediest students?" there is the presumption that KIPP at some point has done otherwise.  From where I sit, they have always abandoned the neediest students by offering, as an existential choice, a segregated confinement accompanied by psychological sterilization, rather than a humane and liberating learning environment that is based on teaching children how to be captains, rather then cabin girls.

As for those children that KIPP regularly throws overboard for posing a threat to the well-oiled routine of the prison ship, well, this represents a second level of abandonment--although there were those during the time of the Slave Trade who preferred to take their chances with the sharks, rather than risk the benefits offered by the ship's crew.

And the third level of abandonment comes from turning back those who unknowingly clamor to get aboard the KIPP hell ships after they have left the dock:

Mathews' present assignment is to put the best face on KIPP's failed mission and to announce a new emphasis on K-4 brainwashing, rather than 5-8.  At the same time, Mathews and the oligarchs who make their millions in tax breaks for supporting these penal colonies want to make the pitch that the public schools should pick up where KIPP has failed and, thus, become KIPP-like.
Now it [KIPP, Inc.] is opening elementary schools, including three here, so it can start raising achievement in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten.

The thought is that by fifth grade there will be no need for hero teachers who work ten hours a day, plus summers and some Saturdays, to save kids who have fallen so far behind. There will be less stress on staff and more hope for kids.
It makes sense, and conforms with a movement in many city school systems and charter networks to create kindergarten-through-eighth grade schools that will give urban and rural children the consistent support and high standards found in many suburban public schools. But I see a problem. This envisioned clean progression from making pre-K the main intake point overlooks the messiness of life in the communities being served.

Schools like KIPP . . . are likely never to enroll more than a fraction of the population. What happens to the many fifth graders who are still far behind but find the doors to KIPP, or Uncommon Schools, or Achievement First, or any of the other successful charters, are closed because they filled those classes back in pre-K and kindergarten? . . . .
And so now Jay's clincher:
. . . .KIPP is too small to ever be the savior of inner city schools, but it can help the regular schools that must play that role see how they might do it.
One may assume that if all urban public schools were to become KIPP knock-offs, there would have be a lower level of hell for dumping all the children who cannot or will not flourish in the total compliance cult environment--in much the same way that KIPP dumps children today back into the public schools.  This could present a whole new charter industry opportunity for reform charter schools, designed on the old reform school model wherein children worked for free or pennies to produce goods whose sale went to sustain the school's operation and its CEOs. Sort of China in miniature, without the poisoned products I would hope. 

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