Thursday, January 11, 2018

Chalkbeat Says Good Morning, and Waiting for Superman is Mainstream

I admit I read Rise and Shine from Chalkbeat every morning. It's kind of a cheat sheet to find out what education stories I might want to see every day.  Also, they email it to me every morning around 7 AM, when I'm sitting with my computer in a department office. I was struck by the part of the intro yesterday, which read exactly like this:

Plus, a new study estimates the cost to district schools when students leave for charter schools. Finally, are you wondering what Oprah would bring to the table on education policy if she ran for president? Chalkbeat has you covered.

What's a district school? Had you ever heard of such a thing in your life before charters existed? I'd argue this is a term they invented. Use of this term legitimizes charter claims to be public schools, but in fact we know that charters are public schools only when they want public money. Eva Moskowitz waged a war with City Hall over having to sign an agreement over pre-K. Moskowitz doesn't do agreements. Whatever Eva wants, Eva gets.

Here's another thing--you may have read about how Eva's students pee their pants rather than interrupt their test prep. That's outrageous and abusive, I'd say. In fact, not only do I say it, but Chancellor's Regulation A-420, which doesn't apply in Eva World, prohibits the use of physical force. As a parent, if you forced my kid to sit and work until she peed her pants, I'd want you charged with that. If that didn't fit, I'd want you charged with negligence, abuse or both. I'm absolutely certain if I were to make kids pee their pants I'd be up on some sort of misconduct. Maybe at Moskowitz Academies you get a gold star, a raise, a promotion, or all of the above.

Who knows?

Then there's Oprah. Of course Chalkbeat lets you know all about her educational policies. Let's look at the headlines they run:

She understands racism and poverty in America — and how schools can make a difference.

Yes of course. The only thing is, racism and poverty have yet to be ended by schools. If they had been, Donald Trump would certainly not be President. And here's the thing--Oprah is a remarkable success story. Painting her as the rule rather than the exception is ridiculous. It's like determining that because Bill Gates didn't go to college, your kid doesn't need to either. And Gates, who Oprah admires, has steadfastly operated on the theory that poverty is too complicated, so we'd best ignore it.

Then there's the talk about Oprah's school. It's not precisely all roses, as abusesex scandals, and other things make you wonder whether you want this school in your neighborhood. And even if you did, how could you judge American education by schools in South Africa? I'm not an expert on South Africa, but if I were looking for a country that really addressed poverty, I'd look to Scandanavia. Sit while you wait for Chalkbeat to do that.

She has given to education initiatives that cross partisan divides

Well that's all nice and well, but anyone following education knows that there are very few partisan divides. The Democrats suck, and the Republicans suck a little bit more. Charter schools are not viewed as a panacea by people who follow education. Of course, these people get little representation by Democrats or Republicans. Here's the thing--they get none in Chalkbeat either, even though it portrays itself as non-partisan. Maybe Chalkbeat failed to notice that Hillary, representing Democrats, failed to support universal health care, a living wage, or college for all. Maybe they failed to notice that the majority of Americans support these policies, and that they had no representation from the Democrats or Republicans. Who knows? The only sure conclusion is that Chalkbeat deems reforminess universal.

They're wrong, of course.

She’s also aligned herself with heavyweights of the ‘education reform’ movement

It's ironic they use the word also here. After all, they just said she was bipartisan because she supports charter schools. Who can forget the show she devoted to reformy Waiting for Superman, with Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Geoffrey Canada, and whoever else was the reformy flavor of the month? Last I heard, Canada walked away from his charter school, Rhee was hawking fertilizer, and Gates was still hammering away, undeterred by his record of utter failure.

Maybe ignoring poverty and blaming teachers for all of society's ills isn't the way to go after all. It depends what's important to you. Do you want to actually help the children of the United States? Then you're gonna need a new approach. On the other hand, if your goal is enriching Betsy DeVos and her billionaire BFFs, just keep reading Chalkbeat and chugging along the way we are now.

If you're looking for well-thought-out local information, though, you might want to check out Diane  Ravitch or Gary Rubinstein. They don't assume charter schools are better than public schools, and they don't assume charter schools are public schools, because they aren't. They are private schools that take public money.

Of course, that's my opinion. The difference between this blog and Chalkbeat is that I'll freely admit this blog represents my point of view. I'm paid by no one to write this. Chalkbeat takes money from Gates and Walmart, just to name a couple. They claim to be unbiased but they present the reformy view as though it's the Gospel.

President Oprah is one of the worst ideas I've ever heard. Running a TV show is one of the worst qualifications for President I can think of. Of course, accepting reforminess as Gospel is just another. I wouldn't vote for Oprah on a bet. If she wants to do the country a service, she can take all that money she has, buy Fox News, and try to slow down the national plague of willful ignorance.

This notwithstanding, I won't be holding my breath.
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