Education reform is often referred to as the *civil rights issue of our time.* But as Noliwe Rooks, author of the new book Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education, tells Have You Heard, today’s reformers are the latest in a lengthy tradition of profiting from an unequal education system. Rooks coined the term *segrenomics* to describe the blend of segregation and economics that dates back to the earliest days of public education. Today *segrenomics* comes with a decidedly high-tech gloss (think, for example, the huge push to get personalized learning into urban classrooms.) But as Rooks explains, the goal of finding experimental ways of educating poor students of color, while leaving the structures of segregation and inequality intact, dates way back. One of our most ear-opening episodes yet! You can also read an edited version of the interview here.
Have You Heard sits down with Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law: The Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. It’s a ground-breaking, mind-changing book, and you should read it, but in the meantime, we’ve helpfully distilled Rothstein’s 10 years of work down to 30+ minutes. He blows up the myth that our segregated cities and neighborhoods—and by extension our schools—are the product of millions of private choices. The legacy of the segregation created by federal housing policy remains with us today in the form of a stark racial wealth gap and what Rothstein describes as a “caste system.” And he has little patience for arguments that school choice is the solution to cities and neighborhoods segregated by design. “We’re not going to solve this problem by choosing schools were going to solve this problem by enforcing the neighborhood school concept in integrated neighborhoods.” Full transcript here.
Have You Heard Episode #23: The Mismeasure of Schools: Data, Real Estate and Segregation
In this episode, Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider discuss how test scores and other current metrics distort our picture of school quality, often fostering segregation in the process. What would a better set of measures include? Our intrepid hosts venture inside an urban elementary school to find out. You can read the entire transcript here, and be sure to check out Jack’s new book, which is really the star of the latest episode.
Have You Heard Episode #22: The Right’s Long Crusade Against “Government Schools”: a Conversation with Historian Nancy MacLean
Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains: the Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, is one of the most buzzed about books of the summer. But her book is also about public education, and the Right’s long crusade to privatize what they call “government schools.” You can read a transcript of the entire interview here. MacLean’s book is fantastic, and I hope that this interview encourages you to read it. Just don’t blame me if you need to sleep with the lights on! Note: if you’re wondering what happened to Have You Heard’s other half, Jack Schneider, he’s been traveling and will be reappearing in episode #23.
How parental powerlessness distinguishes urban charter schools from suburban public schools…
By Emily Kaplan
This is how you get your child into a public school in an affluent suburb:
1. Make a lot of money.
2. Buy a house in an affluent suburb.
Congratulations! Your child will now receive a top-tier education!*
*If you ever feel that your child is not receiving the education to which she is entitled, exercise your right to go directly to the administration and complain. (Your tax dollars pay their salaries, after all.) Work with teachers and administrators, many of whom have decades of experience, to create an individualized education plan for your child. Do not fear retribution: your child cannot legally be driven from the district in which you have chosen to live.**
**If you still feel that your child is not receiving the best education property taxes can buy, you may choose among several courses of action, including: going to the school committee (an elected board on which sits one or more parent representatives like yourself); running for a seat on said committee; sending your child to a private school; or moving to another suburb, where you may repeat the steps above until you are satisfied.
This is how you get your child into a Boston charter school:
- Possess the social capital to be informed about the existence of— and application procedures of— charter schools. (Good luck to recent immigrants, particularly those who do not speak English!)
- Make the harrowing decision that the education your child would receive in the local district school is so under-resourced and/or deficient, academically or otherwise, that you are potentially willing to tolerate one or more of the following characteristics of many charter schools:draconian discipline; an obsession with testing; a developmentally inappropriate curriculum; a curriculum which is not culturally representative of your family; an inexperienced team of teachers and administrators, many of whom have never taught in any other environment; treatment as a pawn in a drawn-out political ruckus about charter schools’ right to exist and/or expand (or not.)
- Attend lottery night, at which you will be informed by a charter school administrator that if— and only if— your child “wins the lottery,” he or she can have the chance to graduate from high school, gain acceptance to college, and succeed there. (According to her, if you “lose,” of course, the chances of your child having a fair shot in life are slim to none.)
- Look around the room of parents and their children, all of whom are just as desperate for quality education as you are.
- Realize that, statistically speaking, 90% of them will “lose.”
If you “win,” congratulations! Your child has a chance of receiving a decent education!*
*If you ever feel that your child is not receiving the education to which she is extraordinarily lucky to have “won,” well… she can always go back to the district you fled, right?
Continue reading →