You don't have to be a public school teacher to have serious doubts about the wisdom of putting huge sums of (especially public) money into charter schools. (Note that the first sentence I write here has the word "money" in it.) You don't have to be a public school teacher to wonder why in some circles, and in total defiance of the facts in many many places, it's just a given that public schools are lousy, minority children are mostly failing in school, and that those who can afford it send their kids to private schools. Public schools are seen as default options or dumping grounds, in the most exaggerated versions of this kind of thinking. And because of dramatic mass media representations of racial and ethnic minorities, any area where Blacks and Latinos live is a "slum." The kids are mostly violent gang members, prostitutes, and single moms, and they don't want to learn. And so on. We need top to bottom reform of a rotten system, alarmists claim.
Attempting to exploit this kind of thinking, there is a movement afoot to make big profits from running charter schools. The rationale, common among people who have been successful in business. or who adopt the business model as their idea of how all human enterprises should be run, see a huge opportunity for them in de-professionalizing education, breaking the unions, selling facilities and supplies to schools and so on. Their idea is that they will do a better job of education, earn praise as forward looking thinkers, and make big profits for themselves. Their success, they feel, will prove that their model of upward striving entrepreneurism suits all endeavors. The ego on display is rather embarrassing, I think, or would be to them if these people had any self insight.
Hereis an index of articles about charter schools from the NYT. Just looking at the headlines shows that this is not an undimmed picture of success.
This American LIfe, Ira Glass's program on public radio, tackles the urban myth of the "failing inner city school" in the podcast episode,"What's that Smell?" (There is also a written transcript.)Draw your own conclusions. A guest teacher thought he could turn kids around in a "stand and deliver" moment. This of course is a ridiculous notion, as any teacher who has spent years in classrooms can tell you. If anyone listens to the podcast and picks up on this, I will have more to say.
It amazes me that so much gets said about charter schools, but aside from mentioning "standards," little or nothing gets said about students.
Kindles are not sexy. And there are few people like me who are not crazy about books per se but just like to read. So these sexier readers and I-Pads and so on are a good thing, because they will keep the book downloading business going.
I just have too much on my mind and too much happening right now to write a long post, but hey, short posts are good, right?
The house painting is going fast, because the two painters are demon workers. And they are both fun guys, too. Very smart, sociable and so on. I try not to distract them a lot with my chatter! My ceramics are getting better. Water aerobics and yoga provide exercise and recreation.
For years I was an autodidact, with only two years of undergraduate higher education. I got little respect for my ideas from my PhD husband or my PhD-track daughter (especially the latter). They had a point, I have got to admit. My mind was untrained.
Going back to school at age 45, I completed my education through an M.A. in liberal studies. That was years and years of reading, writing, arguing, thinking. What I did not do was advance into the last arena, the area of specialization, the Doctorate. But I got close enough to have some notions about what academic professionalism means, and to respect it.
Challenges to high academic qualifications and accomplishments are rife, as are challenges to professionalism everywhere in the culture right now. The perceived “unfair advantage” is not just the professional's credentials, institutional authority, and so on: it is also the mental discipline learned that the autodidact does not possess.
I will have more to say about this anon, especially in connection with current attempts to de-professionalize teaching.
And I am horrified at the Arizona anti-immigrant law. What I think is that we ought to open up the borders, and I'm not the only person who thinks this way, surprisingly enough.
As I said again, in an e-mail to Naomi, I'm ignoring the Teabaggers until after my birthday, which won't be for a while.
I also said I was not going to take a chicken to my doctor, because my chicken isn't sick.
How I slay myself.
I have two postings in the works but no time for them while in the midst of having my house painted.
The AAUW garage sale is the best one in Hilo. I've been helping out for ten years now, and I always sell the books. In the past I had three or four boxes of my own to contribute, but this year I had only a scant box full. Guess why.
I get a good glimpse of how people react to books. My conclusion is that for most reading books is an activity you don't really care for but that you are supposed to honor, like going to church on Sunday. Reading is a badge of virtue, not something one does with pleasure. Reading is good, and darn it's so hard to be good all the time! I can see that most people, at least garage sale customers, think books are boring. They come around, say, "Oh, books," then drift off to look at the fabrics and lamps and little pieces of furniture and tote bags and pictures of scenery and flowers and so on, which are what they really care about. I did sell a fair number of CDs and audio books.
Also, no one, apparently, among those who do read, has ever read a bad book. Oh, this is great, they will say, you've got to read it. It's about XYZ, who was a child war victim or something. Or a historical figure and mistress of someone. If I happen to mention anything I've read, I get blank looks of incomprehension. And I have learned not to waste many words on things I have read, for the lack of interest in most anything that interests me is all too apparent.
Many of the women who do read bought mysteries and books about crime. A few men bought biographies of great men. A bookseller came and whisked away boxes and boxes of mass market paper backs. Cookbooks did OK, as did travel guides.
Many quite good books did not sell, so I am going to try selling them again next year.
This was a pretty intensive two day undertaking, first setting up, and then selling, but I do it mostly for the sake of books. I made my usual $100. or so, because I sell the books so cheaply. When goaded about my low prices, I say, " I just want to move the books along." I figure if they want to lug books around then spend all morning with them trying to sell them for big bucks they can go right ahead!"