Brain Scams

In Douglas County Colorado, science gets the edupreneurial treatment…

brain kidsDear EduShyster: my child’s school has been spending a lot of time on something called Emergenetics personality profiling. Students take online tests to determine what color matches their style of thinking and behaving. I question whether this has anything to do with science and/or the brain and wondered what you thought. Signed: Worried in the West. ps: I won’t reveal the name of the school district, although you can probably guess…

Dear Worried: Color me cynical but I’d say that it’s never a good sign when the brain *science* on offer comes complete with a toll free number: the zombie-esque 1-888-8brains! Now let me attempt to harness my own brain power and see if I can deduce from whence you are writing. Fortunately, I don’t have to delve too deeply as Emergenetics® has helpfully provided a list of its education clients. Any guesses as to where we’re headed, reader? Continue reading →

Principled Opposition

Chicago Principal Troy LaRaviere is speaking out against the direction of education reform—and he hopes more school leaders will do the same…

LaRaviere at City HallEduShyster: I meet a lot of principals these days who express strong objections to policies and mandates that they think are harmful to kids—but few seem to feel comfortable expressing their opinions publicly. Why do you think that is?

Troy LaRaviere: I was at an event recently and someone asked *why are principals afraid to speak out?* One of my colleagues responded that *It’s not that we’re afraid; we’re just being strategic about how we move forward.* I’d never really thought about it this way before, and it hit me that the difference between being fearful and being *strategic* is meaningless because, if you’re scared, you avoid telling the truth because you’re afraid of the consequences. But if you’re being strategic, you fail to tell the truth because you’re trying to avoid the consequences. However you define it, fear or strategy, you’re not speaking your truth because you know there will be consequences from the governmental bureaucracy in charge of the public schools. There is no place for such a fear of government in a constitutional democracy.  That is part of why I tell my truth; the primary reason is to stand up for students, but a secondary reason is to test our democracy—to be an example of an ordinary citizen that believes that the First Amendment is both powerful and real.  It is a meaningful expression of my own patriotism. Continue reading →

Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

The charter express bears down on the Bay State…

objectsIt’s math time, reader, and today’s problem is an excellent one. Ready? What do you get when you subtract 1,001,279 from 1,041,640? If you answered *38,000 and change,* or *the margin by which the new governor of Massachusetts, Charles Duane Baker, Jr., swept into office,* you would be technically right. But these are bold new days and we are thinking big, bold thoughts, which means that the correct answer is *a bold mandate to replace all of our old failed and failing schools with Excellent New Schools.*
Continue reading →

No Strings Attached

I talk with Minnvestigative reporter Sarah Lahm about why some of the nation’s richest men are suddenly so interested in a Minneapolis school board election…

string_figureEduShyster: In my experience, billionaires typically got that way via selflessness—so I wasn’t at all surprised by your latest investigative piece that found that a handful of extraordinarily wealthy men have been pouring money into the Minneapolis School Board race and expect nothing in return. 

Sarah Lahm: That’s right. In a sudden burst of altruism, billionaires like Michael Bloomberg have donated lots o’ cash to the school board race, via the Minneapolis *Progressive* Education Fund. Now it does seem a little odd for little old Minneapolis to be getting so much attention from very wealthy and, as I’ve been assured, good-hearted people far from Minnesota.  They’re not after any particular outcome, by the way, just *strong leaders.*  Continue reading →

Spare a Little (Disruptive) Change?

Charter schools, parking meters and the privatization of Chicago…

Parking MeterQuick, reader: what do charter schools and parking meters have in common? If you’re drawing a blank, may I invite you to accompany me on a ride through Chicago’s South Side, at the expert hands of driver Frank Kuran? Full disclosure: Frank isn’t a traditional cabbie but a driver for that driver of disruptive change, Uber. Unable to find a cab that will take me to Gage Park and the K-8 school that I’m visiting, Frank has come to my rescue, and a la Tom Friedman, supplied me with a post that is practically writing itself. You see, Frank has plenty to say about the subject of education in Chicago and about the charter schools that are proliferating like Starbucks in this part of the city. *They’re a rip off,* he tells me as we make our way up Ashland. *Just like when the city sold the parking meters. It takes money away from the public and poor people pay the price.*   Continue reading →