Friday, March 30, 2012

"School Crisis?" Maybe it's an "Office Tower Crisis?"

THE NEWS HAS BEEN FULL OF STORIES lately about the “school crisis” in America, about how the terrible public schools are undermining the U. S. economy. And I admit I’m scared. The American Dream is being poisoned, strangled and drowned—and it’s all the work of those evil teachers and their evil unions.

Or so the narrative goes.

Look at the international rankings if you require proof. Students from Finland stand #1 in reading and math. Worse still, America is getting its academic brains beat out by Iceland and Denmark god...Liechtenstein.

So what do we know?  Clearly, we have a “school crisis.” You have to be blind, deaf, dumb, and probably lame, with receding hair, and fifty pounds overweight, not to realize that only business methods introduced in American education can stop the hemorrhaging of jobs to Indonesia and China and Bangladesh...and ...uh...What the hell?

We aren’t losing jobs to Liechtenstein.

Maybe we don’t have a “school crisis;” maybe what we really have is an “office tower crisis.”

Maybe our problem is greedy corporations and not teachers’ unions at all.

But I digress.

Are we really losing jobs to Indonesia because
the schools there are better?
THINK ABOUT THE VERY PHRASE:  “school crisis.” It’s like saying the building is the problem.

In the same vein, then, could we say a terrible sports team has an “arena crisis?” Imagine that you could take two NBA teams, the Charlotte Bobcats (with a 7-41 record) and the Chicago Bulls (41-11) and tell them to switch places where they play.

Would that change of address turn the Bobcats into Bulls?

That’s the same level of shallow thinking we see when critics insist we have a “school crisis” and promise that we will see miraculous results if we remove students from “failing” public schools and send them off to charter institutions.

Especially, business-run charter institutions. 

When U. S. shoe manufacturers lost out to competition
with the Chinese, was that a result of some "school crisis?"
Or was it workers willing to work for a few dollars per day?

It’s surprising, really, that charter schools in general, haven’t been faring better, because they start with real advantages that have nothing to do with superior business methods or acumen.

You open up a charter school and you set certain parameters, which regular public schools cannot. You say, for example, we will take students by lottery, because we only have so many seats. If a hundred kids apply from the regular schools you know right away that those hundred have parents who pay attention and go to the trouble to apply.

You still haven’t addressed the most insoluble problems of our society. The insoluble problem is child #101, who hasn’t seen his father in five years, whose mother is a meth head. Mom isn’t going to apply for anything school-related, because mom isn’t worth a shit. So her child suffers every single night and every single day. That means child #101 remains behind in the regular public school and we continue to hear about the “school crisis” when what we’re dealing with is actually a “house crisis,” to use an equally inapt term.

I READ RECENTLY ABOUT A NEW YORK CHARTER SCHOOL which held a “getting-to-know you” session for parents and children to begin the school year. Attendance was mandatory and rules were clearly explained. If a student caused serious discipline problems, both student and parent would be required to attend Saturday morning sessions to address the matter. At that point, several parents took their children and left the building.

A similar story out of Chicago notes that Noble Schools, a for-profit charter operation, assign students demerits for all rules infractions. Twelve demerits means a child has to go to a special Saturday class to address behavior issues and pay $120 for materials.

If that doesn’t solve the problem and another round of special classes is needed that’s another $120.

What happens to those New York kids whose parents won’t back up the charter school on discipline, or those Chicago kids whose parents can’t pay, or won’t, or when the child, himself, refuses to reform?

At that point, such children trudge back down the street to the regular public schools, and re-enroll. Their problems are still the same.

Critics call this a “school crisis.”


1 comment:

  1. Greetings!

    Excellent post, here. Thank you for sharing. In her article, Teacher Unionism Reborn, Lois Weiner postulates "the real aim of the last twenty years of reform: creating a docile workforce that receives no more than the 8th grade education needed to compete with workers elsewhere for jobs that can be moved easily from one city, state, or country."

    Explains a lot.

    I will add you to my list of blogs I read and keep updating. Thank you for being here!