Sunday, December 07, 2008

And they called the wind . . . "Kershaw" II

Spot has already commented - characteristically uncharitably - about Sean Kershaw's recent defense of charter schools that ran in the Strib. There were two sentences, however, that Spot wants to pick out for further examination:

Charters are a way of creating public schools. Nothing more.

Regular public schools and charters are just the same, Spotty?

In the sense that both trees and the fungi that live off them exist in the same forest, yes, Spot supposes so. But there are significant ways in which charters differ. We'll examine just a few.

In an earlier post, Spot listed the names of some existing charters in Minnesota:

Skills for Tomorrow (algebra, English, chemistry, and physics are so yesterday), New Voyage Academy (beam me up, Scotty!), Face to Face Academy (another combat school, apparently), Family Academy (where you can bet your arse they don't discuss family-making), Ascention Academy (a Big Coop special no doubt; Spot would like to look at the curriculum for that one), F. Scott Fitzgerald Writing (for all the parents who wanted to write the next Great American Novel but now hope little Johnnie or Janey will), Loveworks Academy (Spot's not touching that one with a stick), Higher Ground (here's a little of the sub rosa Spot was talking about), and one of Spot's favorites, Great Expectations! (Spot added the exclamation point, but it seemed like a natural).

Spot is sure it is just a coincidence that there are churches with coffee shops called Higher Grounds.

Gosh, you don't suppose that's some kind of Christian code, do you Spotty? And an effort to break down the separation of church and state. Some of those other names make you wonder, too.

Yes they do, don't they, grasshopper?

And you can set up a charter with the skinniest of resumes. This is from another of Spot's posts:

To take one simple example of the lack of nuturance and promise that Spot is talking about. Last week, Katie had a column extolling the virtues of a new school coming to town:

Six years ago, Mike Spangenberg was just a typical college kid who wanted to change the world. "I was big on social justice issues," he says. "I wanted to go to law school, because I thought that was the way to gain access to power."

Social inequality was what fired him most. "It seemed so clearly wrong to me that your ZIP code has such a profound impact on your chances in life," he says.

Then one day, during his senior year at the University of Connecticut, Spangenberg was paging through the campus newspaper while waiting for an English class to begin. An ad for Teach for America caught his eye. In a moment, his law school plans evaporated. "I thought, 'Here's my chance -- here's how I can do all the things I care about," he says. A few months later, he began what became four years of teaching in gritty, inner-city Philadelphia.

Now Spangenberg, who grew up in Maple Grove, is back in the Twin Cities. At age 27, he's continuing his crusade for educational equality as director of Stand Academy, a new charter school in downtown Minneapolis.

Mike sounds like a admirable kid, but the key word is kid. Mike would undoubtedly get carded at the 331 Club where Drinking Liberally meets, yet he is apparently going to be put in charge of public resources coming right out of public school budgets. And people like Katie think this is good. And all the while, as we build more big box retailers and chip away at our social institutions like the public schools, the ranks of the feral children, the nihilists, grow.

Spot imagines that the Somali kids love the idea of a School Crusader!

And do you know, boys and girls, who is the financial force behind the development of the KIPP school model, of which Stand Academy will be one? Spot knows you will find this hard to believe, but it's Wal-Mart. You can read a lot more about it by entering kipp schools walmart as a search engine query.

There is no mystery why big business is interested in the "drill and test" model of education: it makes for a more compliant retail work force.

Spot wants to mention one last thing as a difference between public schools and charters. The potential for rejection of students based on disabilities or ethnicity:

A St. Paul mom's concern about the application process for her son to apply to a charter school may force many more Minnesota charters to change their student application processes.

The schools are asking for more information than state law allows, according to the Minnesota Department of Education. The information -- such as whether students are receiving special education services or their ethnicity -- could be used to deny admission.

A perusal of charter school websites by the Star Tribune quickly found a dozen schools asking for details about prospective students that go too far.

One of the talking points of charter school advocates is that they're great for kids that are "hard to reach." But in the western suburbs, for example, there is already a cooperative public school district with all kinds of alternative programs: District 287. The person in charge of 287 is probably older than 27. And don't forget about things like open enrollment, inter-district magnet schools, and the It's Your Choice Program.

In his op-ed piece Sean Kershaw writes that the "last thing we need" is an argument of charters vs. district, that is real public, schools. No Sean, that's the first thing we need. Charter schools are just a source of plunder by an assortment of free booters and a way to undermine public schools.

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