This weekend’s story in the New York Times about former NFL star Deion Sanders’ struggling charter school lays bare much of what’s wrong with the way Americans think about public education in general, and charter schools in particular.
Tag Archives: school reform
Tanesha Dixon vividly remembers the first summer she spent as a teacher – as part of a service program in Uganda, just before her senior year at Notre Dame.
If you had six months, little to no resources, and a clear mandate to solve a chronic country-wide problem – knowing that, if you failed, you would be asked to leave that country altogether – what would you do?
I ask because this was precisely the challenge Save the Children was faced with, in Vietnam, in the early 1990s. And the way they succeeded has great relevance for those of us who continue to struggle with other intractable problems (like, say, comprehensive school reform).
There’s a fascinating new story this morning, courtesy of NPR, in which a team of researchers pored over 25 years of murder data in Newark, New Jersey, and reached a surprising conclusion: murdering someone is not as individualized a decision as we might think. In fact, the researchers are suggesting we may need to adopt a different lens when viewing the problem, and start thinking of homicide less as an individual choice, and more as a reflection of a larger infectious disease like AIDS or the flu.
It’s hard not to feel excited for the group of parents who successfully took over their California community’s school, and who now are dreaming of bigger things. “Our children will now get the education they deserve,” said Doreen Diaz, whose daughter attends Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto. “We are on the way to making a quality school for them, and there’s no way we will back down.”
It’s equally hard to feel confident that this story will have the ending Ms. Diaz and others envision.
OK, people, let’s get specific: out of all the outstanding and forward-thinking schools in the world, which ones are truly the most transformational when it comes to imagining a new way to think about teaching and learning in the 21st century?
You know there’s a dearth of creative thinking in education when an article trumpeting cutting-edge teaching quotes somebody, without irony, saying the following:
“Get a computer, please! Log on . . . and go to your textbook.”
Yet that’s what the Washington Post did this morning – and they’re not alone. Despite ubiquitous calls for innovation and paradigm shifts, most would-be reformers are little more than well-intentioned people perfecting our ability to succeed in a system that no longer serves our interests.
“But how, exactly, will they be reared and educated by us? And does our considering this contribute anything to our goal of discerning that for the sake of which we are considering all these things – in what way justice and injustice come into being in a city.”
—Plato, The Republic
Heard the bass ride out like an ancient mating call, I can’t take it y’all, I can feel the city breathin’, Chest heavin’, against the flesh of the evening, Sigh before we die like the last train leaving.
—Black Star, Respiration
What characterizes the ideal city – and the cities in which we live? How accurately does the health of a city reflect the quality of its plan for educating its youngest citizens? And does the push towards greater school choice get us closer to, or farther from, that ideal?
I’ve been thinking about those questions a lot since reading a column by George Will in last weekend’s Washington Post. In it he references two U.S. Supreme Court opinions in which the Court affirmed the constitutional right of parents “to direct the … education of children under their control.” As a student of the 14th Amendment, I sought the opinions out. What struck me had less to do with the legal arguments, however, and more to do with an excerpt in one of the opinions from Plato’s Republic, arguably the most famous political work of all time, and a work squarely concerned with the role a city – and, by extension, its education system – must play in helping all people develop their fullest potential.