Thursday, September 6, 2012

Modern-Day George Wallaces in Reverse

In response to the letter by Kristina Tomaino I recently addressed, I posted this comment:

"The most comprehensive charter study performed to date, by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, demonstrated charter schools were twice as likely to produce underperforming students in traditional public schools and underserve special-needs populations.” [--Kristina Tomaino]
I’ve seen this argument against charter schools before—most recently in a column by James Florio—and it deserves special attention for the evil that it exemplifies—the sacrifice of virtue to lessor or non-virtue.  
It is morally perverse to shackle motivated parents and children to the level of the worst students. Whether the underperforming students are the fault of the teachers, parents, the students themselves, or some combination—or due to problems beyond anyone’s control or fault—is irrelevant. To hold any child back to the level of an inferior is so unjust that it boggles the mind that anyone would embrace such a course of action.  
Getting their kids out of schools they deem bad for them should be every parent’s top priority. Parents who seize an opportunity to get a better education for their children should be lauded and free to do so. The kind of mentality that would block them for the sake of “underperforming” or “special needs” students is not motivated by any kind of concern for better education or children’s welfare. They are motivated by pure hatred of the good, the insignia of collectivism.  
Opponents of parental choice and freedom are modern-day George Wallaces in reverse; standing in the schoolhouse door—not to keep children out, but to keep them in. 

And received this response from:

Oh, zemack. You have got to be kidding me. So no politician, Republican or Democrat, has ever used the term "invest" to talk about using taxpayer money? You're semantical issue illustrates your overall bias. Charter schools are not the answer, and the Charter school approval process in NJ is a disaster to say the least. Some charter schools have a place, particularly in high poverty areas, but Christie, Cerf, Duncan, Rhee, etc. talk about them like they are a silver bullet. Virtual charter schools are just about the biggest scam I have ever seen. We all know there is a real push from corporate education "reformers" trying to get a piece of the public education kitty. That is the reality of modern education "reform". Anyone who knows anything about education knows that Charter schools disproportionally serve the student population. Of course it is easier to educate children when there are less special-need children to educate. And what about the kids left behind? What's the plan for them? Duncan points to the fact that kids in poverty in Massachusetts on average perform better than those in Georgia as proof that "poverty is not destiny" and therefore to fix poverty you need to fix education. What he fails to acknowledge is that ALL students on average do better in Massachusetts than in Georgia. It's time to start working with real educators, not billionaires with no education experience, to get real reforms to improve educators. Putting the blame on teachers, like zemack chooses to do, is shameful and unproductive.
My answer:

The fact that you think words are mere semantics is a tip-off. Real educators take words and definitions seriously, rather than use them as tools of obfuscation. Another tip-off is your reference to the need for “a plan for them.” Every child—gifted, special needs, or anywhere in between—is an individual with his own unique character and needs deserving of his own advocate—namely, his parents (or guardians)—with the freedom to act for the best interests of his child. If you’re really serious about “leaving no child behind”—a collectivist slogan if ever there was one—you’d want to dissolve the “public education kitty” and leave parents free to spend their own money on their own children’s education as they judge best. What we don’t need is another man with another grand plan funded by the public kitty. 
I never said charters are a silver bullet or “the answer” (although the tremendous parental demand for them is a good indication of the changes we need). Nor do I “put the blame on teachers.” Quite the contrary: I want the education field liberated so educators can bring us the kind of diversity of ideas that can meet the diversity of children’s needs. My “bias” is individual rights and free markets. Yours is obviously the central planners and the stifling status quo. I repeat: To establishment defenders who find this idea horrifying, I ask: Why do you fear parental freedom and competition in a free market? Don’t you think that parents would voluntarily choose your schools, and voluntarily pay for them? If not, then what moral justification do you offer to support forced government schooling? If so, why do you need it?   

And the conversation continues:

See, you actually prove a point for me: When parents are motivated, kids do better. What about the kid who doesn't have a motivated parent putting them into a charter school? What about that kid? (Also "No Child Left Behind" is a government pipe dream lingo) The problem is when parents are MIA, which happens quite frequently in high poverty areas. And I challenge your assertion that there is "tremendous parental demand" for charters. Can you back that up? The reality is the majority of parents already have choice. If you don't like your schools, you are free to move to another district. In fact, many people move to NJ just because of the school systems. Why are we using the high-poverty, low-achieving districts as the impetus to change education EVERYWHERE in NJ? Outside of those Abbott districts, NJ ranks near the top in the world in education. BTW, who has been controlling those Abbott districts for decades now? The state itself. Do you really think turning it over to for-profit private entities is the solution?

Reactionary defenders rarely challenge my basic arguments. Instead, we get the argument from collectivism: "NJ ranks near the top in the world in education." To which I answer, so what? If the schools are so great, why the fear of parental choice? No answer to such queries is ever forthcoming. Here are my posted responses to a few of his queries:

While I don't believe charter schools are any kind of silver bullet, the parental demand for good charters is real: 
"Do you really think turning it over to for-profit private entities is the solution?" 
That's not the point. The point is, what right does anyone have to force people to turn their money over to government schools, including charter schools? 
"The problem is when parents are MIA, which happens quite frequently in high poverty areas." 
Ok, there are irresponsible parents, for sure. How does that justify hampering responsible parents, or their kids? This argument is a red herring--or worse, as I've said. 

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