If You Invoke Rawls, You Best Come Correct

Boston’s opinionator-in-chief Scot Lehigh invokes philosopher John Rawls to make the case for Question 2. But Lehigh is out of his league, says the Edulosopher, and his argument fails the Rawls ‘test,’ conceptually and substantively…

By Jacob Fay, aka the Edulosopher
Rawls.jpg (695×900)In a recent Boston Globe opinion column, Scot Lehigh invoked philosopher John Rawls to make an ethical argument in favor of Question 2. Using Rawls’s concept of the *veil of ignorance,* a thought experiment intended to help determine the moral principles of a just society, Lehigh tries to make the case that opponents of Question 2 are motivated by self-interest. Lehigh’s argument fails for two reasons. First, his argument actually doesn’t determine whether we should support or oppose Question 2. Second, a genuinely Rawlsian perspective would require asking very different questions than the one that Lehigh proposes: What if your kids were stuck in a poorly performing schools? Put more bluntly, Lehigh’s argument fails both conceptually and substantively.

As I read it, there are four steps to Lehigh’s argument. I have recreated them below, changing some of his language, but not the meaning:

  1. Nobody wants their own children to be stuck in *poorly urban performing schools.*
  2. Charter schools provide better educational opportunities for systemically-disadvantaged youth of color.
  3. Question 2 will not affect communities that already have good schools.
  4. Thus, everyone should support Question 2.

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Set Up to Fail

A former teacher says an acclaimed college-prep charter school in New Orleans is setting students up for failure…

By Jake Guth
sci1There’s an old adage that if something seems too good to be true, then it likely is. Sci Academy, one of New Orleans’ top-rated charter schools, exemplifies that adage. As a success story/victim of New Orleans Public Schools, depending on which way you want to view it, I approached my job interview at Sci Academy with a big grain of salt. The Craigslist ad for a coach described an academically-driven school that was attempting to start an athletics program.

I still remember how blown away I was by my first visit to the school—how it was unlike any *public* school I’d ever seen: the polite kids I interacted with, the noticeable absence of discipline problems. The red flags should have gone up right away. Like the fact that I had no experience coaching. Or that I was given the keys to a room that was used as the school storage closet and told to clear it for a weight room. Or that there was no budget and the equipment was all donated, meaning that the helmets were well past the three-year certification usage limit and many of the pads were moldy. None of it mattered. I was 24 years old, a minority from New Orleans, and I’d landed what seemed like a dream job. Continue reading →

The Shill-y Season

Where does Democrats for Education Reform’s single-issue extremism lead? 

At a time when Democrats and their party are, by virtually every index, moving left, a powerful center-right pressure group within the liberal universe has nonetheless sprung up. Funded by billionaires and arrayed against unions, it is increasingly contesting for power in city halls and statehouses where Democrats already govern…

Entering-Somerville.jpg (500×332)Quick reader: why does this pithy description of the charter school lobby, quoted from a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, sound, um, so accurate? If you answered *because this is exactly what’s playing out in Massachusetts,* you would be correct. To see for ourselves, we need travel no further than Somerville, MA, which is the site of a somewhat, ahem, unusual political showdown. In one corner is Senator Pat Jehlen, a longtime progressive leader in the state Senate and public education champion. Her opponent, Leland Cheung, is a former Republican legislative candidate from Virginia turned Harvard student turned Cambridge City Councilor turned Democrat for Education Reform. Thirsty already, reader?  Continue reading →

Teach Like It’s 1895

Teach Like a Champion’s pedagogical model is disturbingly similar to one that was established almost a century ago for the express purpose of maintaining racial hierarchy…

By Layla Treuhaft-Ali
As an aspiring teacher and a history major, I’ve become fascinated by teacher education, past and present. Which is why I decided to embark on a close reading of Doug Lemov’s Teach Like A ChampionThe book, and its teaching techniques, looms large for any teacher who works in an urban school. Not only has the TLC model of teaching become a fixture of most *high-performing* charter school networks, but it is increasingly making its way into urban school districts as well. And that’s just the start. Teach Like a Champion’s approach also underlies broad efforts to transform the way teachers are educated, forming the *backbone of instruction* at an expanding number of charter-school-owned teacher education centers like Relay Graduate School of Education and Match’s Sposato School of Education.

As I was reading Teach Like A Champion, I observed something that shocked me. The pedagogical model espoused by Lemov is disturbingly similar to one that was established almost a century ago for the express purpose of maintaining racial hierarchy.

Teach Like A Champion advertises 49 discrete techniques that teachers can master to raise student achievement and help increase their students’ college readiness, with a strong emphasis on classroom culture and shaping student behavior, down to the most minute actions. As I was reading Teach Like A Champion, I observed something that shocked me. The pedagogical model espoused by Lemov is disturbingly similar to one that was established almost a century ago for the express purpose of maintaining racial hierarchy. Like Teach Like a Championthis initiative was implemented largely through teacher education and funded and directed entirely by wealthy white businessmen and industrial philanthropists. Continue reading →

The Plutocrat’s Lament

Writer Joanne Barkan argues that for plutocrats like Bill Gates, democracy is a nuisance…

gates-billionaire.jpg (400×266)Jennifer Berkshire: You’re the author of a recent case study on what you call Bill Gates’ *charitable plutocracy,* his years’ long, and many millions-ed campaign to bring charter schools to Washington State. In the interest of the data to which Gates himself is so committed, can you reduce your argument down to a series of numbers? Oh, and please speak in bullet points.

Joanne Barkan:

  • Number of years required to pass a charter school enabling law in Washington State: 17 (1995-2012).
  • Number of statewide ballot initiatives required: 4 (1996, 2000, 2004, and 2012).
  • Total dollars spent by charter school supporters in the 2000, 2004, and 2012 ballot initiatives: $18.7 million. (Practically no money was spent by either side in 1996.)
  • Total dollars spent by charter school opponents in the 2000, 2004, and 2012 ballot initiatives: $2.04 million.
  • Money spent by the Gates Foundation *to give public charter schools in Washington State a strong start* in 2013-2015: $31 million.

And a few other data points your readers might be interested in:

  • Net worth of Bill Gates in 2015: $76 billion
  • Assets of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2016: $44.3 billion.
  • Total receipts of the National Education Association in 2015: $388.8 million.
  • Total receipts of the American Federation of Teachers in 2015: $327.6 million.
  • Average salary of an elementary public school teacher in Washington state (except in special education) in 2015: $60,140.

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