Editor’s note: When I heard education ethicist Jacob Fay give a talk last spring on the ethics of school closures, a brilliant idea occurred to me. What if I could convince him to collaborate with me on an advice column for the ethically conflicted, confused or challenged? Reader: he leaped at the opportunity and Dear Edulosopher was born. I get things rolling today with a question about my own ethical responsibilities as an opinionated blogger. In future installments, Fay will respond to a voter torn over how to vote on a ballot question that would expand charter schools in Massachusetts, a progressive-minded teacher who worries that she’s gotten just a little too comfortable enforcing *no-excuses* style discipline, and [insert your ethically-charged topic here.] All questions welcomed!
I write a blog about the unintended consequences of education reform, and I often feature parent voices on my site. Or as has been pointed out to me on multiple occasions, I feature some parent voices. The narratives I share tend to *align* with my point of view. They feature parents on hunger strikes demanding a neighborhood school, protesting excessive discipline at charter schools, or refusing to let their kids (or grandkids) take standardized tests. What you won’t find are the stories of parents who are rallying, marching and lobbying to demand more charter schools in [insert the name of city here]. While it’s true that I’ve never been asked to run anything like this, it’s also the case that I don’t seek out these narratives like I do the parent protesters whose causes I agree with. My defense is that I have a *litmus question* I apply when it comes to evaluating parent activism: do the parents involved have any say over the thing they’re demanding? For example, if they’re pushing for more *great schools,* do they get to determine what a *great school* is? But a small part of me thinketh that I doth protesteth too much. If I make the claim to care about parent voice, shouldn’t I care about all kinds of parent voices, even if I don’t necessarily like what they’re saying? Continue reading →
I talk to Tom Frank, author of Listen, Liberal, about the Democrats’ break up with the working class and why education can’t save us…
EduShyster: We’re going to be hearing a lot about income inequality at the Democratic convention in Philly this week. But you insist that the Democrats not only have no intention of doing anything about inequality, they actually kind of like it.
Tom Frank: The Democratic party really doesn’t care about inequality because they’re now a party of the professional class: affluent, white-collar professionals. They themselves say this all the time; they talk about the professional class as being their constituency. But we don’t often try to put the pieces together and try to figure out, well what does it mean to be a party of the professional class vs. the working class? One thing it means is that inequality is seen as the natural order of things. In fact, professionals believe in inequality. They think of inequality as totally fair and the way things should be, and they think that because they themselves are the winners in the great inequality sweepstakes. Continue reading →
Is it time for a second installment of my new podcast, Have You Heard, already? Indeed it is, and in this episode, we head to New Orleans, where there’s a rebellion brewing against the city’s decade-long experiment with urban education reform. We speak to the unlikely leader of the revolt to find out why residents of the Big Easy say that changes are being made “to them, not with them” and how this uprising could be heading to a city near you.
I can’t wait to hear what you think! Send comments, criticism, cheery greetings and suggested topics for future episodes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why New Orleanians are turning against the city’s education reform experiment…
Here is all you need to know about the New Orleans schools before Hurricane Katrina hit, ten years ago this summer: they were awful. The schools were awful, the school board was awful, the central office was awful—all of them were awful. At a recent conference held to tout the progress made by the schools here since Katrina, Scott Cowen, an early proponent of the all-charter-school model that exists here now, described New Orleans’ pre-storm schools as mired in *unprecedented dysfunction.* In other words, they were awful. Continue reading →
Andre Perry says education reform in New Orleans has failed the most important test…
Scholar, writer and education activist Andre Perry.
EduShyster: You were involved in the education reform experiment in New Orleans from its inception. But you’ve become increasingly critical of the direction reform has taken. Why?
Andre Perry: The goal of education has to be build the capacity of local residents. It has to be—and I’m talking about from top to bottom. Our goal is not to improve a school in spite of the community. Our goal is to improve a community using schools. And it’s not just to give students the skills to get a job—that’s one small part. It’s to make sure they have sustainable communities to live in. You’re not going to fire your way to improving community. You have to do the hard work of building capacity and training people and becoming a member of the community. That’s how you do it. That wasn’t happening and it’s not happening. In addition, and this is where I am clearly biased, New Orleans is 60% Black. If we don’t have Black leaders in the mix, we’re just reinforcing a power structure that helped cause the situation we were in. Continue reading →