Black Lives Matter and the NAACP Rightly Do Not Support Charter Schools
On August 10, 2016, I came across a post by Marla Kilfoyle on the Badass Teachers Association Facebook page with a link to a Black Agenda Report piece about Black Lives Matter and the NAACP’s stance against charter schools, President Obama’s Race to the Top education policy, and police officer presence in public schools. Reading it, I was compelled to write the following as a comment to Marla’s post. Priscilla Sanstead seemed to be the first to read it. She thought it worthy of being forwarded further, so here it is. The Black Agenda Report link is here http://blackagendareport.com/node/5266.
Social activism via social media has helped so many people like me feel less alone in the fight to save public education from meaningless, abusive standardized testing, meaningless, abusive evaluations of teachers, predatory financiers who not so secretly view education as easy pickings for their charter school money-making schemes, and the elected officials they buy to push this agenda. The Badass network, led by tireless warriors like Marla and Priscilla, has connected me to a constant stream of professional, parental, student, activist, and emotional support. I’m extremely thankful. And continually inspired.
I agree completely with the stance taken by BLM and the NAACP. Put the proper time, effort, money, and policy toward making the American public school system the best in the world. Part of that means redesigning the social contract for America. There are not enough Americans able to own homes who should. There are not enough parents who can afford to spend quality time with their children who should.
Fix public schools. Listen to education professionals, people who have devoted their lives to working in schools, with children. Those gravitating to public education as capitalists will never get it right. Runaway capitalism and great public education cannot coexist. Kids and their schools are not commodities to be traded on the stock exchange.
Pay teachers salaries commensurate with their educations and experience. We spend more time with your most valuable resource than doctors spend with patients or lawyers spend with clients. Respect the complexity of our work. The most vital aspects of what students and teachers ought to be able to do cannot be measured on a standardized test or sporadic and usually rushed performance evaluation. A really good way to evaluate students and teachers (and everybody else) is to provide them unlimited opportunity for collaboration, immediate feedback, differentiated difficulty level, and all necessary tools to get the job done. Think gaming industry.
The private sector may be good at many things. But its money-grubbing hands are not designed to serve well the majority of any group of people. Competition (the opposite of collaboration) and other free market necessities, placed in schools, provoke cheating, stifle innovation, narrow curriculum, kills creativity, encourage classroom environments lacking in trust, fun, risk-taking, freedom.
Most American and European forms of schooling are presently being taken hostage, corrupted, by a wave of ideas pushed by people with a ton of money looking to make more of it. A very distant goal for them is young people graduating schools at 18, 17, or 16 properly equipped to take on a world in desperate need of their various talents. University study, all over the world, is more and more a money racket designed to permanently in-debt young people who cannot find work paying them enough to pay off their necessary loans while living decent existences every single adult deserves. Sixteen percent of the 43 million people in America with student loans are in serious default. They're not answering the phone or returning emails from collectors. They can't make their payments. Building more prisons to hold them moves us closer to another Bastille Day, not The Dream of MLK Jr.
American politicians appear to be more enthusiastic about making illegal sagging pants, braids, and corn rows than guns and poverty. Dubai, an emirate within an hour's drive from me, has an unemployment rate of POINT THREE PERCENT, best in the world. I've been living in Abu Dhabi, capital emirate of the United Arab Emirates for almost nine months. I've yet to see an impoverished block or town. Violent crime hovers near zero percent.
There's a newly formed government ministry charged with focusing on --- wait for it --- the HAPPINESS of residents. It's a small nation of 8 million (7 million expats from all over the world). No, it's not a democracy, but is the U.S.? The U.K.? France? Greece? Belgium? This very moment, how free do most native citizens feel in these and too many other nations in The West? Is their present condition more the result of "radical Islam" or the lies and greed of their leaders, regardless of party?
No place is perfect, but do we continue to excuse poverty and vast criminal behavior, by poor people as well as elites, as an unfortunate bi-product of democracy, "freedom," government by the wealthy, for the wealthy? Or do the powerful global elite start to listen to grassroots groups, courageous truth-tellers of all stripes, everywhere, tired of the status quo? Think on how often in human history rich, powerful leaders concluded that they had taken too much from their people and made proper amends.
This history is the pink Godzilla in the room. Like police officers around the world escorting controlled public protests, it lurks and lingers.
Justin Williams holds a B.S. in English Education and a Master of Education from The Pennsylvania State University. He is a doctoral candidate in the Educational and Policy Leadership program at Hofstra University. Justin began the 2015-2016 school year, his 17th as a public school educator, in the United States and ended it in the Middle East, where he currently resides with his wife and two younger children. In April of 2016, he presented his doctoral pilot study research on Career and Technical Education practitioners in a high school in the Northeastern U.S. at Arab Open University in Kuwait.