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

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Jacobs on Meier on KIPP

Joanne Jacobs' post on Meier's recent comments on KIPP.  My brief response follows:

KIPP = Nazi Germany?

In musing about democracy on Bridging Differences, Deborah Meier equates KIPP and other “no excuses” schools with Nazi Germany‘s schools.
What troubles me most about the KIPPs of the world are not issues of pedagogy or the public/private issue, but their “no excuses” ideology implemented by a code that rests on humiliating those less powerful than oneself and reinforcing a moral code that suggests that there’s a one-to-one connection between being good and not getting caught. It tries to create certainties in a field where it does not belong. . . . Life is never so simple that we can award points for “badness” on a fixed numerical scale of bad-to-good. As we once reminded colleagues, Nazi Germany had a successful school system—so what? I’d be fascinated to interview some KIPP graduates to learn how its work plays out in their lives.
KIPP schools don’t suspend students for misbehavior or send them out of class. Instead, they sit in a separate area with the school polo shirt inside out until they’ve apologized to their teacher and classmates and the apology has been accepted. I assume that’s what Meier means by humiliation.

The moral code that equates “being good and not getting caught” baffles me. What is she talking about?
Life is not simple, but surely it’s possible for teachers to award merit or demerit points to students for good or bad classroom behavior without turning into Nazis.

After all, very few schools try to operate as democracies.
KIPP is an extension of the “reform eugenics” that survived World War II, even if millions of the “unfit” did not. And although the biological determinism has been dropped as a central element of the ideology, there remains the core impetus to change the cultural memes, even though we can’t change the inherited genes.

KIPP and the No Excuses ideologues are out to protect the dominant culture from the defective cultural traits of defective cultures, and that is why these “defective” children are isolated, contained, segregated and culturally sterilized every day, all in the name of “social justice.”

And even if only half make it through these total compliance KIPP camps and the KIPP knock-offs, and if only a quarter of those end up going to college, and if only half of those finish, not to worry. The rest will have been KIPPnotized along the way, learning the most important lesson of all: if you don’t succeed, boys and girls, no one is to blame except yourself–you just did not work hard enough, and you were not nice enough.

There is a cold logic in Mike Feinberg’s admission that behavior at KIPP is more important than academics.

That is the tragic truth.

Recommended: Selden’s (1999) Inheriting Shame . . .

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