A Sane Impulse and a Clear Lesson: Charter Schools

Let’s dare to be honest about charter schools.

There is no “testable” benefit. Which is to say that testing tells us the same thing about any school environment. Kids, as humans, grow and develop variably, that poverty deadens living and this includes “intelligence” as part of overall health. What is a charter for? To create an environment you want your child to grow up in. Now, that is indeed arguable. I don’t know that folks who send their kids to be disciplined in a “succeed or die” school really want their kids to grow up that way, but the ethos of the school, as presented by the owners/leaders of the school, offers a promise of an environment that inculcates and habituates the right way to think in order to succeed. A public school does not, perhaps cannot, offer that overly marketed promise. It is a sales slogan promising the right kind of indoctrination.

Okay, so, set aside the lies told by corporate owners of charter school franchises (be sure the charter school as conceived is just another Golden Arches) about success, and caring, and choice, and whatnot.

This sanity makes you want to holler (“they way they do my life”) and given the chance to affect a change in your dreary circumstances and the dull future your children face (if there is even a future to face anymore) why would we fault anyone for wanting to take it? Yes, we are duped. But it’s not a fault to want the lie to be true. To need it to be true.

So, sanity calls to you in the form of the charter school, or the voucher…the marketing campaign of “choice” (the liars are so good at mixing the positive connotations with the negative realities).

But further, look at your public schools. They are also wrong. I’m sorry if that offends you. They are. They are physically often over-large and depressing buildings–no one would want to spend time in them–short-ceilinged bunkers nearly all. Look at how they pull kids out of neighborhoods. Look at their hours of operation. Look at their narrow and restrictive curricula. Look at their lack of spirit (please do not count the misplaced idea that sports provides this–rather it robs the school of it by creating that shallow and narrow activity). These are not “expansive” experiences even though the logic offered suggests this introduces kids to “difference.” Often we “hunker down” in protection. Of course I know this is not true of all kids. That’s the point I think. Kids who succeed in massive school populations are “bound” to succeed in any population. It’s the bulk of the rest who learn their social and economic limits are replicating with each passing year.

Listen, my impulse to send my child to “not that school” is based on what I just wrote. I hate schools that are monstrosities. Our two primary high schools have a population of about 2,000 students each and I’m sad to say that this is probably not even considered large. But it is too big. It will not encourage any dream or hope of the barely hopeful. It will reinforce and stultify.

Charter schools are NOT the answer to better learning outcomes, especially a charter owned by a corporation with liars in charge who are interested in quantitative analysis of studet-widgets and profit-margins (magical pedagogy!). But I have to be honest. They appear to be a sane and hopeful choice for so many.

At least in one way I agree with this. They are smaller.

But, let’s be clear, they are also bastions of social replication–just smaller. And that is both the good and the bad about them.

My choice for a school: small, a diverse population in as many ways as possible, arts-oriented. That’s it.

If a school’s ideology includes population regulations and curriculum requirements that create homogeneity in some way, then that’s were things turn ugly. That’s where we rediscover the US of Segregation; that’s where we apply “limits” and depress the growth of the human ability to think outside of tribe and tribal survival. That’s how we create populations that can be “mobilized” behind the ideologies of nations and leaders.

The Charter School can provide that laboratory; the voucher system clearly does this.

But Public School defenders LISTEN. The Public School needs to change. It does not need to compete. It needs a new philosophy (or actually probably an old one). No more managers and no more quantification. No more business practices. How many of us implicitly believe (feel) that we should not be means to others’ ends and yet how many of us acquiesce to the reality that this is exactly what we are? (We are the what not the who.)

The Public School might be the place to change that. But only if it changes in order to serve that goal.

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