I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"White People... Destroy and Leave"

I really take no pleasure in busting on 20-something kids, but we are witnessing the evolution of a particularly destructive and obnoxious trend, so I feel I have no choice:

This morning, I'm reading a Twitter exchange between StopTheFreezeNJ and Emily Myerson of Students For Education Reform. The "reform" part should be in quotes, as with most groups of "reformers," because they are lined up with the Michele Rhees and Derrell Bradfords and Wendy Kopps of the world.

The exchange was, in a word, pathetic:
 Emily Myerson 


 Emily Myerson 


 Emily Myerson 


Oh, Emily: "why the gap?" Seriously? If you're going to engage in this debate, you need to be more discriminating in your reading. Sitting in Starbucks with your fellow Ivy Leaguers gushing over Waiting for Superman is not serious study; start by reading Bruce Baker (I know, he teaches at a public university - how gauche...). You'll quickly find the populations of charter schools are vastly different from those of neighborhood schools, and that there are many, many good reasons to believe that self-selection in charters (with lots of "persuasion" from the operators) plays a huge role in creating those population differences.

But this back-and-forth got me wondering about SFER, so I checked out their website. What are the kids up to this summer?
It’s June, and our chapter leaders are already hard at work in internships with high-performing education reform organizations all across the country! Check out where they’re working below:
Teach For America
  • Ashley (SFER Cornell)
  • Macy (SFER Whitworth)
D.C. Public Schools UELIP Program
  • Nina (SFER UNC)
  • Lawrence (SFER Yale)
New York City Charter School Center
  • Sarah  (SFER UGA)
Relay School of Education
  • Katie  (SFER Princeton)
Educators 4 Excellence
  • Claire (SFER Minnesota)
KIPP Philadelphia
  • Kelly (SFER NYU)
KIPP Stand
  • Anthony (SFER Harvard)
Uncommon Schools
  • Emily (SFER Princeton)
  • Ashley (SFER Columbia)
Dream Camp
  • Kaitlyn (SFER FSU)
Access Opportunity Program at SUNY Geneseo
  • Julia (SFER Geneseo)
Katy Independent School District
  • Christy (SFER Texas)
Rural Education Access Project in China
  • Brian (SFER OSU)
Buffalo ReformED
  • Becca (SFER Haverford)
Harvard Summit for Young Leaders
  • Anthony (SFER Harvard) (yes, you saw his name earlier–he’s a rock star!)
And many of our chapter leaders who aren’t interning in education are doing amazing public interest work in other fields. Elissa from SFER Cornell will be at The Reinvestment Fund, researching urban food deserts in Philadelphia. Kareem from SFER Colby is doing Bike and Build, a cross-country bike trip to support affordable housing. Dennis from SFER Penn State is studying macroeconomics and lobbying as an intern for the American Association of Manufacturers. Devanshi from SFER Stanford is working with Common Sense California, a non-profit promoting grassroots civic engagement in California communities.
Charters. KIPP. TFA. Lobbyists. Reformy advocates.

Hey, anyone actually studying to be a public school teacher? For their career?

I look at this list, and I remember two quotes. The first is from this past year:
“I worry this school reform is being hatched in a foreign place,” says Howard. “It is externally funded and externally conceived.

To Jeffries, this notion is damaging and untrue. But he blames Booker for fanning the suspicions by making decisions in secret, without engaging the community. The leaked memo is one example.

And Booker’s decision to announce the $100 million grant from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on the “Oprah” show, without telling anyone in Newark, left Jeffries flabbergasted.

“For a place like Newark, that is the absolute worst way to do it,” Jeffries says. “It was an absurd spectacle.”

Back at Science High, even the Facebook gift was regarded with suspicion.
“The foundations are interfering with public education and dividing our community,” says Cassandra Dock, a local resident. “Leave us alone. We don’t want white people coming in here and doing what they do — taking over. Destroy and leave.” [emphasis mine]
It's really, really easy to have a "passion" for education "reform" when you're not actually going to go into the schools and teach the kids for a yearly salary that, even at its peak after 30 years, still wouldn't pay for a year of the elite college education our SFER friends here enjoy.

TFA has become the modern equivalent of the Peace Corps; spend a few years in urban schools, then move on to Wall Street or Madison Avenue and regale your colleagues with tales of your little safari while you stand around the water cooler and calculate the matches to your 401(k).

The good people of Newark - and every other city in the country - get it. They know that the well-touted gifts from billionaires, the temporary appearances of privileged young people in their schools, and the interference of politicians does nothing to solve the crushing poverty and economic blight that plagues their cities. They know that the game is rigged and that they are being condescended to and lied to and stolen from at every turn.

They know this because it's been going on forever, which brings me to my second quote:
I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. 
I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

That, of course, is from Martin Luther King's Letter From Birmingham City Jail.

I wonder what Dr. King would think about the "reform" movement. A movement that funnels tax dollars to private interest school operators. A movement that gives tax dollars to students who ALREADY attend private or parochial schools. A movement that works to slash public worker pay and benefits in the name of "accountability". A movement of hustlers who receive a whole heck of a lot more than thirty pieces of silver from their wealthy benefactors; benefactors who pay LOWER tax rates than the teachers they malign.

Actually, I don't wonder at all what he would think. I know.


Unknown said...

This post is one of your best. Thanks for the inspiration.

Duke said...

High praise when it's from you jcg - thanks.

thinker said...

I agree with jcg....inspiring and thought provoking post.

Anonymous said...

Jersey Jazzman - make sure you know your facts before you insult Students for Education Reform. Many chapter leaders are, in fact, education majors and did not spend their summers only working for "Charters. KIPP. TFA. Lobbyists. Reformy advocates". The mission of SFER is to mobilize undergraduates towards closing the achievement gap in the United States. That is what they are doing. They are open to all research-backed ideas about the much needed education reform in the US. Instead of insulting, why don't you get involved with the most passionate young leaders of the country? You could probably be a resource of information for them.

Unknown said...

Dear Anonymous,
You've missed the pivotal point. Inner city families don't want missionaries funded by private investors coming in and imposing their ill-conceived model of education simply because said investors have enough money to influence powerful education policy makers. The profession of teaching is not a 2 years prep for the next employment opportunity. Don't you understand how condescending and insulting that is to struggling, inner-city families?

Dr. King would reject Students for Ed Reform, their agenda and their ilk. Not because they employ 20 somethings with good intentions but because those 20-somethings' altruism is being exploited by edu-financiers for profit. Profits that are tax deductible and are the drivers of impoverished communities; profits that form a steady stream of public money into private hands; profits that do not guarantee educational equality and opportunity.

If the edu-reformers are genuinely concerned about the poor, maybe they should reform their predatory business practices and pay workers fair wages, benefits, and retirement rather than treating human beings like capital losses.