Sorry to be the barer of bad news, but the last 8 years has not in the slightest way, change the “apartheid academic achievement” system that presently exist in our nation’s public schools. If anything, like the fictional characters in a play by Samuel Beckett; our waiting passively in vain for “rescue”; perhaps did more harm than good. I say we get out of the waiting game!
Now a lot of folks are bent out of shape by PEOTUS’s pick of Betsy DeVos as the next Secretary of Education (SOE); and in particular focusing a great deal of their fire on her “inexperience”; and her “hostility” to public education. One major problem is that “inexperience” seems to be the popular trend in public education these days; as long as the source of your adventurism is poor kids of color. And it would be professionally and intellectually challenging for me to make the case that either of Mr. Obama’s SOE picks were significantly more “experienced” than Ms. DeVos.
Further, some of the loudest organizational/individual anti-SOE pick voices are held by those who through their own actions, and inactions have primarily stood in the way of public education being successful; allowing public education to do its most damaging and ineffective work with this nation’s children of color. Their consistent inability to stand up for children, particularly, children of color, suggest to me that their protest is more about a lost opportunity to wrongly influence a national path for education; and to continue to “get paid” as bad acting tour guides. Being taken for an unproductive ride by the Democrats as opposed to the Republicans, does not feel better, when one finds themselves lost in the ineffective education wilderness.
These are the cynical educational crusaders who battled relentlessly, those of us who have passionately tried to change the educational trajectory for the majority of our public school students. They are also those who at every opportunity, failed to make reasonable professional concessions and changes that would allow the children of the disenfranchised to have a chance at a decent future through education. They are the ones who opened the door for all types of horrible experimentation, the national decimation of Black school teachers, principals and superintendents. Yes, it was many “educational traditionalist” who paved the entrance for people playing with, and at education, those masquerading as “reformers”; who would go on to inflict the greatest harm on the most vulnerable children in our society.
And in those places where black people were in operational charge of the school system; the policy officials looked the other way, after all, it was not their children being harmed; this alas was “black on black” educational criminality, theft and incompetence. No one should now protest against our present state of affairs, when it is a reality that they themselves have created!
The “hostility” to public education thing…
Parents are not fooled; high expectations and a quality educational product is not equally distributed throughout the public educational systems; in some places the children are first, and in others (their schools), it is the well-being of the adults that matters most. It is the choice of two radically different metaphors: schools as employment centers; or schools as centers of learning and intellectual growth. The children of these parents are systematically excluded from gifted & talented programs as well as gaining access to specialized academic programs and schools; in large part because of formal and informal educational “unpreparedness”, or just flat out interviewing and screening discrimination. There is no comprehensive strategic plan for Black children who do not have academic deficiencies; all Black children must find their natural low-expectation place in the fictional “achievement gap” (which hides the more accurate and true: Opportunity Gap!).
When Black and Latino parents are asking for “diverse-integrated schools”, it is not because they are so naïve as to think that just sitting their child next to a White child will make them smarter; no they want their child to enjoy the educational experience that the White child is enjoying, of not receiving a good education by accident, but rather as a standard of entitled K-12 educational excellence.
And given the opportunity to successfully educate their children in a local-traditional-neighborhood public school, I think that Black parents would be happy to make that choice. But Black parents are often forced to choose charter schools (parochial, private and the rapidly growing Black homeschooling movement) out of a sense of having been abandoned by public school systems, acting out of a desperate hopeless frustration, not hope.
For too long, “leaders” and “leadership organizations” in those communities, that are the least well served by public education, have spent most of their time arguing over which failed “achievement gap closing” strategy is better; how to politely “tweak” a terribly failing system that is in need of dramatic radical transformation. They cynically select and take uninformed educational positions based on political and financial support. Like some kind of children’s game they choose sides on topics for which they lack any deep pedagogical understanding of how schools, and education in general works (i.e. unions/charter schools/school choice/common core curriculum/standardized testing, etc.); when the choice should be to fight for the interest of the community, and children they purport to serve. They have mastered the art of making a lot of loud and angry sounds about public schools; while insisting on very little substance change in the existing narrative as to how to successfully educate children of color.
It would seem to me that those mis-underrepresented communities who suffer public educational disappointment and neglect the most, should adopt a dual strategy of political engagement to change the present ineffective public school systems; while at the same time (because children can’t wait!) do all that they are able to counteract the deleterious effects of a system that is not designed for their children’s success. And those positive, pro-active parental-community actions on behalf of their children; those things that don’t require “permission” from a SOE or anybody else, these self-affirming and independent strategies will be the focus in part 3…