Before I begin, when I Googled “charter schools definition” Wikipedia was the 1st search result and the NEA (National Education Association) was the 5th — oh corporate sponsorship….
Here’s a specific definition of Charter Schools so we were on the same page:
Charter schools are publicly funded elementary or secondary schools that have been freed from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools, in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each charter school’s charter.
NEA believes that charter schools and other nontraditional public school options have the potential to facilitate education reforms and develop new and creative teaching methods that can be replicated in traditional public schools for the benefit of all children. Whether charter schools will fulfill this potential depends on how charter schools are designed and implemented, including the oversight and assistance provided by charter authorizers.
I’m not against charter schools by any means. I’m just against everyone believing that they’re the savior of education. There is no savior of education. Waiting for one person or one thing to fix everything doesn’t work. Just look at Barack Obama. So many lauded him (now that I think about it, he lauded himself) as The Change We Can Believe In. Seriously? One person is not going to change an entire system. Look at those who have tried. Dr. King, Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Angela Davis, Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Che Guevara, Gloria Steinem, Shantha Bandara. What the aforementioned individuals did do is honor their beliefs to the point of death. They were so much of themselves that the system bucked up and killed them. I’m not going to get into justifying their deaths. I will say that systems don’t like it when something or someone goes against their chosen direction. Those revolutionaries inspired masses of people who then changed the system.
Let’s look at charter schools. They tend to work because the overarching accountability mechanism has been adjusted so they can be individual. That’s what makes them work- individuality. The larger system has given them permission to do their own thing in the hopes that the people of their community know what’s best for the community. Seattle has, thankfully, voted against charter schools (thank you PNW). We have not, however, voted against our schools. Not completely. There are things in place; billionaires and their philanthropy, levies, community in school grants, and other funding sources that help schools be slightly individual. I like that. Now, what I don’t like is the time limit given to schools to “turnaround.” Seriously? Give me a break. That’s about as helpful as expecting a 236 year old country to erase their sordid past during the only Black president’s 4 year term. That’s hilarious. Cultures need to change and sometimes that takes a generation. I’m sorry, but it does. Why am I apologizing? I didn’t do it.
While at the 2012 National Service Learning Conference Geoffrey Canada delivered a great speech. I tweeted a few of his remarks on Twitter (@19_more). He totally stole my Harriet Tubman anecdote. When I heard it, it equal parts blew my mind and pissed me off. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be giving the keynote somewhere and some young educator 3o years my junior will be equally conflicted. I’m still young. I guess it’s good Geoff and I are seeing eye to eye. I bring him up because of Waiting for Superman and something he said. I couldn’t get through through it. There was too much hype and the subject matter made me sick so I turned it off. But Geoff said something that struck me. I’ve heard it before (it’s super Biblical) but the context was super helpful. He said, “I am ready for my moment of opportunity to act on my dreams.” That’s how it worked with the Harlem Children’s Zone.
I have so many ideas on how to revolutionize communities and impact education. I just need to be ready when my moment of opportunity arises. His speech, as keynotes are supposed to, challenged and invigorated me. It also reassured me that my beliefs are worth something. When people don’t agree with you, you’re on to something. I often get push back on my theories surrounding adolescent racialized identity development and academic achievement. That’s okay. It made me think of how charter schools have become popular at a time when our society needs something. We’ve recognized social inequities and we want to fix without working too hard. It’s not that simple. Nothing is that simple. Charter Schools aren’t the iodine to our nation’s past.
While I’m not against charter schools I am against the way the public views them. They. Are. Not. Our. Savior. I’m not setting out to be education’s savior. I just have some really good ideas. If I am going to continue to educate as I do currently at a larger scale I must be ready “…when my moment of opportunity arises.” Who knows when I’ll be eating popcorn and watching a movie at the White House and find myself nose to belly button with our nation’s, very tall, President of the United States.