When it comes to reforming America’s schools, is bigger always better?
I’ve been wondering about that question since watching a recent episode of Treme, the HBO series set in post-Katrina New Orleans that chronicles the struggles of a diverse group of residents on the slow path toward rebuilding their beloved city.
In the episode, an aspiring local musician named Davis McAlary raps about changes in the school system:
Four years at Radcliffe, that’s all you know
A desire to do good and a four point oh
You’re here to save us from our plight
You got the answer ’cause you’re rich and white
On a two-year sojourn here to stay
Teach for America all the way
Got no idea what you’re facin’
No clue just who you’re displacin’
Old lady taught fathers, old lady taught sons
Old lady bought books for the little ones
Old lady put in 30 years
Sweat and toil, time and tears
Was that really your sad intention?
Help the state of Louisiana deny her pension?
It’s worth noting that Davis is rich and white himself, and that a friend of his quickly questions Davis’s logic. And yet when one considers the omnipresent discussion these days of “taking ideas to scale,” the core critique deserves some consideration.