Deceptive reformy tricks: the “we heart all schools!” fallacy

When Newark State Superintendent Cami Anderson unveiled her ridiculously dysfunctional “One Newark” plan, she said this:

“Together, public and charter school leaders have agreed to something quite profound – to move beyond individual priorities and achieve a true coalition to fight for equity and excellence for all of Newark’s families.”

When Paymon Rouhanifard unveiled his “Camden Commitment” plan, he advertised it by saying this:

“We should aim to build a rich tapestry of schools – district, charter and renaissance — where the goal is to hold all schools to the same high standard.”

Steve Perry, critic of “raggedy-ass” schools and union “roaches” everywhere and principal of Capital Prep, a magnet school in Connecticut, said this:

“I am not a proponent of any particular classification of school. I care not if it’s a charter or a neighborhood school. I really don’t care. I want you to have a choice.”

And last week, Michelle Rhee tweeted this:


In case you didn’t know, reformers love all kinds of schools!  They just want kids to be successful! They just want all kids to have access to a great education!

Sounds good, right?  Sounds reasonable?  How can anyone argue with that?

Here’s how. It’s disgustingly hypocritical for people to say they support neighborhood schools–and at the very same time promote “school choice” as an “escape” from district schools that are “failing” because of the very presence of charters and the flawed, punitive policies which disproportionately punish schools with minority, economically/socially disadvantaged, and special-needs students.

Let’s consider this theoretical scenario: what would would happen if a district–say Newark, for example–shut down all traditional public schools and only operated charters?  Seems like that’s where many districts, where neighborhood schools are being shuttered and charters are popping up everywhere, are heading–right?

Would anyone–even charter advocates–want such a scenario?

At first glance, perhaps; but actually, the answer is NO.  NO, NO, NO, NO, NO.

Why? Because charters whose “success” fundamentally depends upon their ability to cherry-pick their students, counsel out kids who can’t cut it, and escape the regulations to which district schools are subject would have nowhere to send the kids they don’t want. Charters would have to deal with entire populations of cities that are crippled by the effects of poverty–and they’d have to serve even the neediest, most troubled, and most at-risk children. No exceptions.

They couldn’t have that, could they??

(See herehere, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, hereherehere, here, here, here, here, and here if you’re unfamiliar with the extent to which charters cherry-pick kids, implement disciplinary practices that wouldn’t be tolerated in real public schools, have high attrition rates, employ more inexperienced teachers, and play by their own rules. And, guess what: there’s plenty of research to suggest that even when they pick their kids and counsel out the ones who can’t cut it, many charters STILL don’t perform better than public schools.)

Reformers depend on the tired old “portfolio of great schools” jargon to promote their choice agendas. They need it.  Their collective cause, and deceptive advertisement of “choice” as a panacea for society’s ills, depends on it.

So it’s easy to ultimately conclude this: if proponents of choice allow charters to play by their own rules to project an illusion of “success”–and if just enough starved-of-resources neighborhood schools (no nurse? no counselors? no art, music, recess?) remain to serve as dumping grounds for the kids charters don’t want, reformers can use those district schools as “proof” that charters are superior.

It’s like comparing an old, neglected hospital that’s devoid of necessary resources–and has to somehow serve every single person who walks through its doors–to a new, well-staffed, well-resourced hospital that can only take patients who can be treated easily. (Everyone else goes to the old hospital, of course.)

It’s like a bully publicly saying, “we all need to get along!”–and then privately and purposefully persecuting his victim but still maintaining the illusion of camaraderie.

It’s like a big sister pinching her little brother until he cries–and then using his tears to claim that she’s the better and more well-behaved child.

These modern-day “reform” practices reek of the elitist approach Ayn Rand had to education: that it should be turned over to private enterprise–and that the poorest of the poor would be the only ones left in the few remaining “government schools” that weren’t turned over to private entities.

So that’s right, Cami Anderson, Paymon Rouhanifard, Michelle Rhee, Steve Perry, and all your reformy friends: keep saying you’re for “great schools” no matter whether they’re charter or district. Keep ignoring that comparisons among such schools are not valid since district schools serve all children, while charters and magnets do not. Keep ignoring discussions about charter and magnet attrition rates, as doing so is a purposefully deceptive way to manipulate graduation/college acceptance statistics. And by all means: keep a handful of district schools–devoid of the resources that have been shipped to charters–open so kids who can’t or won’t cut it in “choice” schools have a place to go when you don’t want to deal with them anymore.  

But just remember this: when a school’s “success” depends upon the exclusion of any children–and when a school’s “success” comes at the expense of any children–“success” is not success at all.  It’s failure that affects the population as a whole.

And that’s despicable.


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