Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Reclaiming Our Precious Nouns

Michael Fiorillo wrote a great piece about the "choices" city residents have for their kids. The corporate geniuses who make all the decisions about education have determined, since vouchers have never been popular anywhere, to get into the charter business. Of course, by the sole criterion with which they are measured, test scores, they aren't really any better than the neighborhood schools they displace.

But everyone wants Choice. You can go to the neighborhood school, if they haven't closed it yet, and if it isn't drained of space and resources you may do OK there. Of course, there could be three or four small schools, or maybe a Moskowitz charter, and you may feel like a second-class citizen as the Moskowitz school gets refurbished and yours doesn't. And, of course, the Moskowitz school doesn't take all those inconvenient special education and ESL students, and they oppose any bill compelling them to take a mix that reflects the neighborhood. Better to dump them on the neighborhood school, watch their test scores plummet, then take it over when it gets closed.

Still, I wouldn't send my kid to a charter on a bet. I've seen films by Doug Lemov showing the regimented nature of schools he finds excellent, watched the teacher pass out paper so quickly that not one moment of instruction was lost, watched kids marching quietly from one place to another, and saw no joy, no inspiration, nothing I want my kid to be part of. For me, of course, Choice would be sending my kid where Bloomberg's, Klein's, King's, or Obama's kids go.

So there's no Choice for us. And now, there's no excellence either. Excellence has become the province of the reformy, hence Educators for Excellence, and now Parents for Excellent Schools, funded by the fine folks who brought you Walmart. Of course, there's a whole lot of hoopla about how these are grassroots groups, and a whole lot of talk about how they are independent, but it's crystal clear what their agenda is:

The group’s top priorities are school choice, teacher evaluations, and ensuring that charter schools have access to public space. 

Just like the faux-teacher grassroots group that preceded it, they just happen to follow exactly what Bill Gates wishes them to. So, the second word they've usurped is "excellence." Evidently, those who oppose "choice," junk-science evaluations, and the degradation of neighborhood schools are opposed to excellence.

One of the great things the GOP has done over the years is phrasing things--the "death tax," for example, which means a few zillionaires have to hand over a few bucks before inheriting the extra zillions. "Obamacare" was a pejorative, but the President took possession of it and turned it to his advantage.

Can we take these words back? Can we think of better ones? We'd better hurry, while some good ones are still left.
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