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

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Lies, Damn Lies, and David Brooks

David Brooks was the latest Diane Ravitch corporate savager until the New Republic's senior dolt, Jonathan Chait, strode in yesterday in the flyweight division of clueless corporate ed deformer commentators.  I'll get to Chait's thought disorder in another post, but first I must say something about that sweet-smiling fascist-next-door type, David Brooks, whose smarmy swipe at Diane Ravitch has gotten a lot attention among the Business Roundtable ed industry types who can't decide, at this point, whether to wait for Arne Duncan to be burned in effigy in Washington, DC before they take their bags of dirty money and head for the hills.

For, alas, there is a storm brewing among educators and parents against BRT, RTTT, and the Gates/Broad/Walton education oligarchy, as witnessed yesterday in actions by the tepid ranks of NEA delegates, who passed a resolution called "13 Things We Hate About Arne Duncan." 

Ravitch will have her own fun dissecting Brooks's lame attack on her, but it is this snippet I cannot let pass:
In sum, Ravitch highlights a core tension. Teaching is humane. Testing is mechanistic.

This is true, but look at which schools are most distorted by testing. As the education blogger Whitney Tilson has pointed out, the schools that best represent the reform movement, like the KIPP academies or the Harlem Success schools, put tremendous emphasis on testing. But these schools are also the places where students are most likely to participate in chess and dance. They are the places where they are most likely to read Shakespeare and argue about philosophy and physics (emphasis not mine).
Now there have been many exaggerations created by KIPP's multimillion dollar marketing machine in order to frame KIPP's segregated 10-hour a day culture-scrubbing chain gangs as the ultimate child civil rights intervention, but this truly reaches a new level of monstrous myth-making in terms of content.  Most likely to learn chess, read Shakespeare, and argue about philosophy and physics? Whoa, David!

Jay Mathews is corporate media's expert on KIPP, and not even Mathews, in all his fawning over Levin and Feinberg in his book and in his endless promotion at WaPo or in interviews, even mentions chess programs, Shakepeare, philosophy, or physics in a KIPP school.  Not even chief hedge fund KIPPster propagandist, Whitney Tilson, would make up such an obvious lie.

The amount of argument, on anything, in a KIPP school or one of KIPP's knock-offs, is between negligible and none, and if Shakespeare or philosophy is ever mentioned, it is most likely on one of the thousands of worksheets these children fill out every year.  Has KIPP ever fielded a chess team or dance team?  Not even a mention on any of KIPP's websites, much less in a news article.  (There is a news story this week on KIPP's latest corporate madrassa in Jacksonville getting an "F" on Florida's new school rating system that asks children to write).

No doubt Brooks would like to assuage his under-developed neoliberal conscience with the self-delusion that the children in KIPPs and the KIPP wannabes have given up their childhoods for something, at least, of some value.  After all, a real education might take some of the bad taste off the years of psychological brutality and behavioral neutering that these children suffer as they learn the Seligman way of absorbing any level of abuse heaped on them as preparation for the Oligarchy's global economy.  Sorry, David, that's just not the case.  If you want to find schools with rich curriculum, go where the rich are.  Try Westchester County, or Bethesda, where you live, David.  The real question, David: would you send your own children to these schools that you tout as most likely to teach Shakespeare, philosophy, and chess?

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