Thursday, March 10, 2016

Powerful Market Forces And Crying Children

I've often written against the charter school movement. I'm not talking about Albert Shanker's original concept, where charters exist to work hand-in-hand with traditional public schools to reach students who are otherwise falling through the cracks, a laboratory of sorts in which new techniques and ideas could be tried and the successes shared. No, when I criticize charter schools, I'm talking about the kind of school represented by this New York Times video of a charter school teacher verbally and emotionally abusing a child

Video: A Momentary Lapse or Abusive Teaching?

In 2014, an assistant teacher at Success Academy Cobble Hill secretly filmed her colleague, Charlotte Dial, scolding one of her students after the young girl failed to answer a question correctly. The children's faces have been blurred and their names obscured to protect their privacy.

(I was unable to embed the video the ordinary way, but you can click above to watch in on the NYT player. It shows a charter school teacher berating a first grader, then tearing up her paper before banishing her from the group. I urge you to click through to the article anyway, however, because it is worth reading. In it, you will find that the Success Academy sees "nothing inappropriate" in this teacher's behavior and that this type of "teaching" is more the norm at their schools than not.)

I understand that some readers are familiar with good charter schools, but those are rare and becoming increasingly so. Believe me, they will only be allowed to exist as a feel good face of the "movement" until the big chains have come to dominate the market, then they too will be crushed as large corporations always do to high quality "mom and pop" operations. Most charters are in the mold Success Academy, corporate chains run not for the purpose of education, but rather with an eye on turning a profit. They are accountable to no one but their stockholders. When the parents of the girl who is shamed and shunned wanted to ask questions, they were told that the democratically controlled school district was not responsible and that they would instead need to take it up with the Success Academy's board of trustees, a body comprised primarily of hedge fund and investment managers, a body that has absolutely no obligation to even acknowledge the parents' existence. 

This is what is freaking wrong with charter schools. They are no different than privately run prisons, after which they are apparently modeled. These charters are under no more obligation to educate children than are private prisons to rehabilitate prisoners. It is all about the bottom line and there is absolutely no democratic accountability. This is what charter school champion Bill Gates is talking about when he says he wants to "unleash powerful market forces" on America's children. As long as they can deliver adequate test scores, by any means necessary as the video demonstrates, they get to keep feeding at the government trough, pocketing billions while abusing our children.

And the ultimate goal is the complete take-over of public education, as has already happened in some places, making every child a prisoner of these unaccountable profit centers. I don't use the word evil often, but this is what it looks like.

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Phat Tanya said...

Thank you for this article! Through the years, you have inspired me to follow my instincts when it come to "traditional" teaching. I am meeting with a group of moms in my area to talk about this and try to make a better path for our children. You are awesome and I WISH YOU WERE IN BOSTON!

Fred Celio said...

she needs ti be removed. she doesn't deserve the title Teacher.

Unknown said...

I am almost speechless. Tears and disbelief; I could hardly watch this. I don't get what charter schools are all about (I'm Canadian). That there is no accountability is truly frightening. Children: so precious, vulnerable, smart, trusting, full of previous knowledge and experience, so inquisitive and willing to learn with and love the adults entrusted with their care. This is a crime, and yes, I agree: it is evil to abuse innocence and trust.

Anonymous said...

Thanks as always, Tom.

I would also encourage readers, especially parents of New York City, to consider the institutionalized racism that appears in all descriptions of Success Academy. In all I've read about the schools, they take particular pride in test scores, and immense pride in the strict methods used to get children to score higher. Articles say that parents are sold on the idea that their children will get discipline and high test scores. Articles report that parents are thrilled that their children no longer speak their minds, no longer ask questions, no longer question authority, and get high standardized test scores. A vast majority of those students are black.

I don't live in NYC and I'm not black. I haven't the slightest idea what it feels like to be Black in America, beyond what I read. Perhaps this really is best for those families and kids. How do I know? Who am I to say?

But my heart asks this question, and answers it: What's better than poisoning the water system? Taking the children.