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

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Comments on Lefty Parent's August 12 Diane Ravitch Post

Charter Schools are privatization and are a vehicle for vouchers
Lefty Parent:

Thank you for your excellent essay Thoughts on Diane Ravitch's Critique of U.S. Education System.

I've been intending to write a piece on how gender bias, sexism, and rank misogyny are contributing underlying reasons for purveyors of neoliberalism to have attacked K-12 first (without question profit is their overarching reason). I'll be quoting your cogent essay at length when I do. Divide and conquer is colonialism 101, and not only have the corporate charlatans like Parent Revolution's lawbreaking and trigger-happy Ben Austin found a way to pit parents against educators, their cynical backers realized all along that "this is a predominantly female workforce" would resonate with teabaggers and other reactionaries that hate working women almost as much as they hate organized labor, people of color, and immigrants. Obviously segregating children of color into obedience camps like KIPP, where they undergo what Dr. Jim Horn refers to as "cultural sterilization," also appeals to the wealthy white males driving corporate "edreform," as it does to those they've tricked into thinking they have the same interests.

However, I find your stance on charters somewhat lacking nuance and I think we need to find another mechanism than charters to move in a direction of democratizing schools. With the understanding that not every charter experience is like that of Los Angeles, where the most vile and greedy 501C3s have succeeded at commoditizing children to the tune of millions, the potential for corporate market forces to co-opt and dominate charters too great. The endless list of scandals, the predominant profit motive, the lack of democratic control, and the capricious way they can be closed, begs a different path entirely. We need a better way to have schools with more community oversight and parental decision making, while removing any mechanisms for corporate control (non-profit or otherwise). We know the names behind the so-called charter "movement" and they certainly aren't people interested in democracy, community, or a populace with critical thinking skills.

"In the long run, charter schools are being strategically used to pave the way for vouchers. The voucher advocates, who are very powerful and funded by right-wing foundations and families, recognize that the word voucher has been successfully discredited by enlightened Americans who believe in the public sector. So they've resorted to two strategies. First, they no longer use the word "vouchers." They've adopted the seemingly benign phrase "school choice," but they are still voucher advocates." — Jonathan Kozol

As social justice advocates we need alternatives to counterpose to the charter-voucher "movement," as it is corrupted through and through by plutocrats like the Broad/Gates/Walton Triumvirate. In Los Angeles we made a call and published guiding principles for running schools differently several years ago called Community School Choice: An Alternative Way for LAUSD. What would we call schools that teach critical pedagogy and have much more community control? I don't know, but the word traditionally associated with the public contracting with private entities certainly doesn't hold much hope for me. Beyond a new word, we need a new paradigm, as charters have become a haven for finance capitalism and corporate charlatans.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate your calling out my piece and I understand your concerns about charter schools, particularly the maybe 15% that are for-profit or have a non-profit "front" but then a for-profit company behind that supplying the educational services.

    I want to clarify that I don't think that charters have enough freedom to provide truly different educational opportunities for our youth. They are constrained by most of the key constraints that keep conventional public schools in the teach to the test mode with standardized curriculum and ubiquitous high-stakes testing.

    But unfortunately, at this time, I see no other vehicle for community members and people outside the huge public education hierarchy to get involved in doable, "think globally and act locally", educational change. To change the conventional schools it seems you have to start at the state or even national level and first derail the national standards movement. Then you have to get your state to back off from voluminous standardized curriculum and high-stakes testing to enforce it. Once all that has happened you maybe can begin as a community to work with your school board, your district or your school directly to work for real change.

    The charter option, though significantly flawed, gives you at least a limited opportunity to create a school in your neighborhood at least somewhat outside the box, though you still have to teach to the standards and to the test. But honestly, in the present reality, how else can you launch a school based on critical pedagogy, have the teachers run the school, or have the parents "take over" a failing neighborhood school. How else could you have a school adopt a Montessori, Waldorf or John Dewey holistic education model.

    If you don't have the option to start your own public school, then you are just a small community of people challenging a multi-billion dollar educational-industrial complex. How do you even begin to make headway their without either waiting for, or hastening the demise of our Soviet Union of a "command and control" education system.