Sunday, February 12, 2012

If Only Vouchers Worked Like Magic Cloaks

My wife's father died when she was eight;
but she was raised by a great mother.
So she turned out great.
It works like that a lot in life
and it can work the other way.
My blog has been picking up a little traffic lately.  I figure it probably has something to do with my fluid writing style, or perhaps it boils down to my good looks.

It can't be because of brains. To hear critics speak, America's public school teachers are a bunch of Neanderthals and every problem in our education system today is a direct result of their all-encompassing stupidity.

So, to recap: I'm a retired teacher and my blog is designed, in part, to speak in defense of all good teachers.

For that reason, I try to make clear that teachers are not the only problem in our schools, nor, in my opinion, the biggest problem by far.

I'm not like U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

I don't believe, like he does, that we can test ourselves to education success. Nor do I believe in vouchers and charter schools, as keys to our salvation. In my opinion there are plenty of bad parents out there and they are the very ones most likely to send children to school who have severe problems and who are, of course, least likely to have support or love or decent living conditions in the home.

If you're a fan of vouchers, however, I have a perfect voucher plan--which is probably going to make me the next U. S. Secretary of Education if Mitt or Newt or Rick or Ron or Michelle or The Donald or the Herminator or "None of the Above" can oust President Obama from his comfy seat in the Oval Office in November.

My wife was great with
raising kids.
Sadly, not all parents are alike.
Yesterday, a "fan" of my blog complained because I was using "scare tactics," citing examples of terrible parents, and chastized me for arguing that vouchers will never solve the problems of children in the very greatest need of help.

I don't believe I'm resorting to "scare tactics" when I try to point out the obvious. Take, for instance, the recent tragedy in Washington state. There, Josh Powell, already a suspect in the disappearance and likely murder of his wife, set fire to his home, killing himself and two young sons, Charlie, 7, and Braden, 5.

Maybe I am another stupid teacher. Maybe I've been getting along all these years on nothing but my looks. But had those two poor boys survived, I don't see how a voucher or a seat in a charter school was ever going to make their father a decent parent or even a decent human being. 

You can bury your head in the scholastic sand if you want to and try to make the case that more and more charter schools will fix U. S. education. But that is tatamount to saying if we built Mr. Powell a better home he'd be a better father.

I want to hear the experts outline a plan that helps kids like Charlie and Braden--who are never going to get the help at home. Just because you took your voucher and took your child away to a different school, that doesn't mean you did a damn thing to save the Powell brothers.

It's sad, really (and again, I admit, there are bad teachers out there and we need to do more to get them out of the schools). But when I "Googled" "father sets fire," intending to add "to sons," to find the story about the Powell's, I got multiple stories before I could finish. One was an old report, from 1986, about a boy named David Rothenberg, whose father dumped three gallons of kerosene in a motel room while his 6-year-old was sleeping, and set it on fire, burning the child over 90% of his body. A more recent example, from West Palm Beach, Florida, would be Jorge Barahona, found with the body of his adopted daughter, Nubia, in the back of his pickup truck and a badly battered son, Victor, 10, her twin brother, slumped across the front seat. Dad told police he was distraught over the girl's death and planned to set fire to himself and his son, but couldn't do it in the end. Remorse came much too late for the poor girl or for Victor's sake. The boy showed evidence of all kinds of prior injuries: broken collarbone, broken arm, burn scars on buttocks and abdomen, and rope marks on wrists.

Emily Rodriguez, Victor's first grade teacher, told reporters she remembers how Nubia used to visit her class at the end of every day to see how her brother had been doing.

Now:  Think about this whole story for a moment. Think like any good teacher. Is the solution to such problems really more layers of standardized tests? A school voucher for Nubia? What good would that do in the end? Stupid teachers? Really?  That's our biggest worry?

Worst of all, it doesn't take any effort to find these kinds of stories. The same paper that reported on the Barahona case included an article about Marsee Strong, 34 and Edward Bailey, 40, now in jail after their nine-year-old son was found wandering the streets, naked, bruised and starving, one recent Saturday night. He informed police he had jumped out a bedroom window to "escape his abusers." Rushed to the hospital, he begged for food, said he hadn't eaten in three days, and was found to have "permanent marks of abuse" all over his body.

A shocked judge in the case said the boy looked "like he just came out of Auschwitz."

You see, no "scare tactics" are necessary at all. Every good teacher I ever knew wanted to save every kid they ever had in school.  That doesn't mean, no matter how much they tried, or how much they cried (or cursed in my case) when they failed, that the task of saving the most needy children was ever easy.

People who believe vouchers and charter schools will save all our children must be a collection of blind, deaf and dumb people.

Or they must be fools.


  1. Thanks for the clarification! I think I get it now. (It isn't easy for me because I was educated in a public school so now I am "blind, deaf, dumb, and a fool.")

    Here is your view, if I understand it. Vouchers and charter schools can't save "ALL our children"; therefore, we must make sure that they do not have the opportunity to save *ANY* of our children.

    Okay then. Hope this view somehow helps you save those in most need. Good luck with that. ;)

    You are a good sport for taking the heat on this blog. I appreciate that and truly do wish you well!