(“The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few” Dr. Spock)
The loud outcry concerning the “destruction” of charter schools being caused by not permitting some of them to co-locate is both dishonest and misguided. For one thing, the schools denied co-location only exist on paper. There are no students, the school is not even open. Given this fact, the rhetoric and the impassioned speech notwithstanding, these schools cannot possibly be closed because they do not even exist!
I must tell you that as a teacher, I always required my students to present facts. I told them don’t just say, “I should have passed your class.”, show me the grades, the work, the evidence that supports your claim. You would certainly have to think and expect that people who are responsible to lead and teach young people, people who claim to have cornered the market on successful education strategies and methodologies far superior to those people and methodologies found in the “public schools”, would know this and would model that behavior and technique, but clearly those on the charter school side of the argument consider it to be all right to omit certain facts in order to make their argument appeal to the pathos of the issue and gain the sympathy of those who cannot or do not think, analyze or examine what they hear because they simply assume that if someone is saying it, it must be a fact! (See Wikipedia).
It is also to present charter schools as “THE solution” to today’s educational issues. While I have no doubt that there are charter schools somewhere that are amazing, almost magical places where education just seems to happen out of nowhere, there are non charter schools where this happens as well. It is also interesting to note that most, if not all of the people presently advocating the importance and value of charter schools NEVER attended charter schools. In fact many of them are products of some public school system, yet they are extraordinarily successful. Think about this for a minute. If charter schools are the only schools where education can take place, how was it possible for anyone to be successful before there were charter schools? Surely everyone did not attend Catholic schools and private schools. Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein, James Baldwin, Colin Powell, President Barack Obama, former president Bill Clinton, Les Brown, Oprah Winfrey, John Thompson and a host of others were public school students, and it is fair to say that most, if not all of them had significantly less access to technology than any students have today, and you’d have to say they are
pretty successful. While it is true that for many of them, technology did not really even exist at that time, there is no denying their success without attending a charter school makes two very important points:
- There was learning and education BEFORE
- Charters are not, nor can they be made into “the only game in town” as it pertains to education.
When you listen to people talk about charters, they make it sound as if charters play by the same rules as non-charters, and so their “success” proves their superiority to the non-charters. The only problem with this is that it is not true. For one thing, charters decide entry to their schools by lottery, which by definition of the word means access is reduced or minimized, (even to those “highly performing students” they have made it their mission to recruit and target!)
For another thing, charters “re-evaluate” students and in the event students are found to have become a “poor fit”, they are “counseled out of the school into more “appropriate” learning venues. Non-charters are not afforded that option.
Charters “limit” themselves to 5 or 10% of the ELL and special needs population, if they take any at all, whereas non-charters ‘ population may contain 20-25% or more of these groups.
Charter schools seem to have an endless stream of resources. Not only do they receive public funding, (and then limit public access), they receive funding from corporations, hedge funds, millionaires and billionaires. They also receive the latest technology and the newest furniture, books, etc., while non-charters are saddled with broken down technology, twenty or thirty-year-old furniture and no books!
The fact of the matter is that when charter schools co-locate, in order for them to present education at a “more rigorous level”, the charters have to expel, or push out some of the students currently attending the school that is already there, thereby robbing that community of its space, its dreams, its access and opportunity. While it is emotional and perhaps even inspiring to listen to those who say they are fighting for their children, who total 100,000 students of the 1,000,000 students education population, I’m just curious, who is speaking for the other 900,000? Don’t they matter? Don’t they deserve the same opportunity?
Charter schools claim that not allowing them to co-locate is “killing the dreams and hopes” of their 100,000 students. Point taken, but what about the dreams and the hopes of those students evicted so that the charters could flourish, or even those who remain in the co-located schools, relegated to second class citizenship as it pertains to their educations? That perspective of education as an either or scenario doesn’t jibe with my understanding of education, which fits the adage my mother, taught us- “What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.” To my mind, education is supposed to be accessible to all who want it, not just those few kids at some special school.
Both of the ideas in the title of this essay are applicable to the current charter school issue as both touch on the idea of being fair. The Spock quote, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”, emphasizes the importance of taking into account the whole picture. For example, let’s say a father wants to buy himself a new car, but buying the car would mean his family would not be able to pay the rent, so they would be living on the street. His desire/ “need” for that car should not be greater than his family’s need for shelter!
In the quote, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”, the point being made is that if one person is allowed to do something, others should be al allowed that same opportunity. After all, if the master is entitled to live as a free man, why shouldn’t the slave have that same opportunity?
When I served as a dean and students told me the teacher had thrown them out of the class for no reason, or disrespected them, I always told them to give me the whole story- not just the part that made them look good.
If we want to have a mature, responsible, coherent, honest and productive discussion about how to get education to work for ALL of the students, maybe, just maybe we need to start doing exactly what I told those students to do almost thirty years ago- tell the whole story, not just the part that makes you look good.