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

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How Do You Shut Down the Most Brutal and Corrupt Charter School in U. S. History? We Don't Know Yet

If you follow our model, you'll be a winner. By the time these kids are in ninth grade, I don't have to call them idiots anymore.  --Ben Chavis, founder of AIPCS
Ben Chavis is the foul-mouthed right wing thug turned schoolmaster, founder, and overseer (think plantation) of the American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland (AIPCS). 

AIPCS openly disparages multiculturalism and openly advances the philosophy of Milton Friedman. Consider this 
teacher recruitment ad from the AIPCS website that became part of a story in 2009 by Landsberg in the Los Angeles 
Times
“We are looking for hardworking people who believe in free market capitalism . . . Multicul­tural specialists, ultra liberal zealots and college-tainted oppression libera­tors need not apply.”
The history of abuse, brutality, and mistreatment goes back years.  Here is a clip from the SFChronicle almost 6 years ago:
. . . .The 130 students at the school, in grades six through nine, follow strict rules. They must wear waist-high dark-colored pants with white shirts -- no jewelry, makeup or brightly colored hair accessories.

Most of the school day is spent in one classroom with one teacher, who moves with the students to higher grades. The day begins with three hours of math and language arts, followed by a 20-minute lunch. Forty-five minutes a day are devoted to physical education.

Arts are allowed only after school. And there are no computers. Chavis believes they bring mischief -- theft, pornography and unforeseen costs.

Students have hours of homework most nights, and two weeks of summer school are mandatory.

Those with good grades and perfect attendance all year are rewarded with spending money from Chavis' own pocket -- up to $100 depending on the student's age. Breaking a school rule, such as not completing homework, being tardy or breaking the dress code, means an automatic detention.

Repeat offenders are subject to public embarrassment. Those students must stand in front of other classes as Chavis or a teacher exposes their misconduct.

"An eighth-grader hates to be sent back to a sixth-grade class," Chavis said. "I want them to be embarrassed. I'm preparing them for the real world."

But it's the most extreme forms of discipline that have thrown the school into the critics' line of fire.

With parental permission, Chavis cut the hair of a student accused of stealing. A boy who admitted to calling his classmate a derogatory name was pinned with a note that read "I'm an (expletive)" in front of other students.

Chavis said incidents of such discipline are isolated. Still, one led Monica Peoples-Brown to withdraw her sixth-grade son, who was pinned with the note after a heated conversation with Chavis that included name-calling and a threat to call the police.

"My child was traumatized," Peoples-Brown said. "It hurt me to sign him out. My child was really learning. But I can't deal with an administration that is a dictatorship."

Some take issue with what they call Chavis' inappropriate use of racial stereotypes, cursing and name-calling to embarrass students at the school. Floundering students become the public targets of labels like "stupid" and "lazy Mexican."

"I tell the students, if you don't do your work, people are going to call you a lazy Mexican. You're black, they expect you to be an idiot," said Chavis, who is Native American. "I use it to motivate the kids."

The school loses about 10 students a year. Chavis said most of them moved out of the area. Disgruntled parents say they and others were pushed out or became fed up with Chavis' inappropriate language and overly aggressive discipline.

Rachael Huang disagreed when her daughter was assigned to retake Algebra I in September. After a series of intense discussions with school administrators, she said her daughter came home with a list of other Oakland schools photocopied from the phone book.

She took the hint and removed both her daughters from the school.. . .
Just days ago AIPCS's charter came up for renewal amidst allegations and a ton of evidence that Chavis and his wife have treated the school's account as their private piggy bank.  From the Mercury-News:
Staff members with the Oakland school district's charter schools office cited a host of reasons for the recommendation to reject the school's charter school renewal application. At the forefront is an ongoing state investigation into allegations of fraud and other illegal activity at American Indian Model Schools, the organization that manages this charter school and two others. School district staff say investigators with the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team are reviewing more than $3 million in questionable transactions by the organization during a recent three-year period.

Late last year, a former employee's claims of financial misappropriation and cover-up prompted the district and county superintendents to request a special audit. The former employee said funds for an after-school program were redirected to a company owned by Ben Chavis, the organization's director.
And this from the SFChronicle last week:
Superintendent Tony Smith recommended the board shut down the charter based on a separate district staff review and 2,100 pages of documentation that found a lack of "responsible governance" and "poor financial accountability," as well as a lack of services for special education students and English learners. It also found teachers were hired without credentials, as required by law. The district findings mirrored the issues raised in the state audit.
So let me end the suspense.  The School Board voted 4-3 to grant this chain gang another 5 year charter, as Chavis and his corporate sponsors looked on.

Do you think a school board in the leafy suburbs would ever allow this kind of evil, abuse, fraud, and brutality to occur in their communities?  With the safety and welfare of Seth and Caitlin at stake?   Not quite, but it is perfectly fine as long as poor kids are being manhandled, abused, miseducated, and humiliated.  This is a contemporary example of moral breakdown on a colossal scale, and what Arendt called the "banality of evil" in our midst:
. . . Arendt concluded that far from exhibiting a malevolent hatred of Jews which could have accounted psychologically for his participation in the Holocaust, Eichmann was an utterly innocuous individual. He operated unthinkingly, following orders, efficiently carrying them out, with no consideration of their effects upon those he targeted. The human dimension of these activities were not entertained, so the extermination of the Jews became indistinguishable from any other bureaucratically assigned and discharged responsibility for Eichmann and his cohorts.
 Arendt concluded that Eichmann was constitutively incapable of exercising the kind of judgement that would have made his victims’ suffering real or apparent for him. It was not the presence of hatred that enabled Eichmann to perpetrate the genocide, but the absence of the imaginative capacities that would have made the human and moral dimensions of his activities tangible for him. Eichmann failed to exercise his capacity of thinking, of having an internal dialogue with himself, which would have permitted self-awareness of the evil nature of his deeds. This amounted to a failure to use self-reflection as a basis for judgement, the faculty that would have required Eichmann to exercise his imagination so as to contemplate the nature of his deeds from the experiential standpoint of his victims. This connection between the complicity with political evil and the failure of thinking and judgement inspired the last phase of Arendt’s work, which sought to explicate the nature of these faculties and their constitutive role for politically and morally responsible choices.

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