Friday, February 19, 2010

Straight Up?

I've got some issues with that concept, as laid out in Rick Hess' new blog. Apparently his pet peeve is when people talk about doing things "for the children." While Hess, in passing, mentions Michelle Rhee, and a Bush flunkie, the bulk of his righteous indignation seems directed at teachers and teacher representatives.

For example, he mentions AFT President Randi Weingarten, and quotes her here:

Asked, "What's the central complaint of the teachers union about charter schools?" Weingarten counters, "Look, the issue becomes: how do you help all kids?" A minute later, she adds, "The issue becomes: how do we help all kids succeed? The issue in terms of the charter schools were, we want to make sure that they're taking the same kinds of kids that all other public schools have."

Regular readers know I'm not Weingarten's biggest fan, but she's absolutely right here. If not only charter schools, but also the small public schools Joel Klein so adores, are the miracle they're made out to be, they need to take precisely the same kids public schools do. In fact, they ought to focus on the most high-needs kids, if their mission is truly anything of value. There should be no pre-admission interviews designed to weed out those who may not boost the stats. There should be no failure to count students who've transferred elsewhere against the alleged success stories, and there ought to be equivalent resources.

But my main objection to Hess' theory is what he failed to include. The two most prominent "reform" programs in the country are, by name, "No Child Left Behind," and "Children First." You'd think he'd notice that, rather than focusing on odd comments here and there. Both these programs imply anyone who'd oppose them are somehow opposed to children--precisely what Hess says he objects to.

So, here's a wild idea. Can't we just presume that everybody cares (or admit that we can't tell the posers from the real deal) and just argue policies and practices instead?

Well, it's hard to presume that everybody cares. I mean, you read that Al Sharpton got $500,000 and suddenly decided educational reform was his number one priority, and you get suspicious. When Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein hold public hearings, ignore every single speaker and reps from four of five boroughs, it's really tough to interpret that as caring. And frankly, sometimes it's very simple to tell the posers from the real deal.

Arguing policies and practices is a good idea. But only on a two way street, Mr. Hess.
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