Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Education Renaissance That Wasn't- A Less Romantic View of Charter Schools

The Obama Administration likes to promote charter schools as a vehicle for revitalizing education in inner city communities. Some of its officials like to speak of it sparking an "Education Renaissance"  in inner city communities.  I for one, am skeptical of these claims.  In the course of doing community history projects in the Bronx, I have encountered some excellent charter schools, but the majority of them seem to promote a nose to the grindstone emphasis on test prep and discipline that leave little rooms for arts, culture, history or community activism.

So I raise these questions to Charter School supporters and advocates. If charter schools are indeed promoting an "Educational Renaissance" in our inner cities, where is the great art and music that has come out of these schools? Where are the plays and films? Where are the programs that promote or uncover community history?  Where are the community forums around issues like stop and frisk and the school to prison pipeline?  Where are the innovative experiments in school based agriculture?  Where is the outreach to public schools that unites all schools in trying to inspire and empower students and families?

Unless someone can point to examples of these things I have overlooked, I will remain skeptical of the great promise  for community revitalization Charter Schools allegedly offer.  In some places, including the Bronx, they do give some parents safe educational options for children who can accept their rigid discipline, much like Catholic schools did in past generations. But because most see themselves as competitive with public schools,  and often try to undermine them, there is little evidence they improve overall educational opportunity in urban areas, much less serve as agents of community revitalization

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