I’m connected to my undergraduate university on LinkedIn. Once a week, I get a digest of the important messages from other group members of this university. Today’s message was this: “Please “like” Urban Charter School on Facebook!” Phuph! I growled from where I was situated, still in my bed. This was not the ideal message with which to start out my morning. You see, I’m pretty much completely and totally opposed to charter schools.
What? you ask. Why? Well, it’s quite simple or maybe it’s complicated. I’m not sure which so I’ll just explain. In my mind, charter schools ruin public education. Perhaps that is their goal, I’m not sure, but they really botch all chances of a fair and equal education for students across the board.
Let me just start out by saying that I was a public school kid. My parents still taught me strict morals, they prayed before every meal, and they somehow brought me up to leave high school without ever having experimented with party favors like cigarettes, drugs, or controlled substances. So this shows that NOT ALL kids who go to public schools are going to light up a joint in the school bathroom. I’m living proof of this.
Sure, I often look back on my high experience and think, they should have changed this and they should have taught that, but for the most part, I had a great education.
Right now, there is a Common Core of State Standards in the United States. It’s there to give students a clear, consistent understanding of what they are expected to learn. I taught the Common Core in Idaho this winter and was surprised to find that the standards made sense. I was actually teaching the students HOW to think rather than WHAT to think. It was amazing, but it was hard for the students. They weren’t used to thinking for themselves. Some of them even barfed out the garbage their history teachers had said about the Common Core and how the English Department was dumb, etc. completely ignoring the idea that with Common Core, students are gaining so much and they’ll ultimately develop those critical thinking skills that often seem to be missing from society.
Teachers for public schools are being butchered these days. Parents, administrators, and lay people complain that teachers don’t have the education, brains, or management skills they should have. So the lawmakers pass stricter laws to ensure that the teachers in the classroom are well educated, skilled, and that they know how to manage a classroom. And yet people still complain about the teachers though they have no idea what sort of training and education the teachers have had.
But at Charter Schools, anyone can teach. Teachers there don’t have to have the same requirements as those at public schools. Many charter school and private school teachers lack actual education degrees, though they may excel in their fields. And somehow, the charter school has “better” teachers. Explain this, please.
The true reason I dislike charter schools is because I believe they are causing damage to America’s free public education. Our class system is only becoming more divided. The poor people are becoming poorer. Their education is ignored the most. These poor people are somehow creating a population of special needs children that don’t make it into charter schools. That’s the thing about charter schools; they get to say which kids they want and which they don’t. All the rest of the kids end up in public school. That leaves public schools full of the special needs kids, the trouble-makers, the kids whose parents don’t make enough money to send them to the private schools, and the straight-A students who see the value in public education. Money helps kids get that “better” education with smaller class sizes and more one-on-one interactions from the students. And somehow these charter schools (which receive public funds) get to pick and choose which kids they want. They’re like me when I pick through a bag of Skittles. Perhaps I want all red today (the kids who excel at science) and purple next year (the math geeks) but please don’t send me any yellow (the kids with learning disabilities) cuz they’re too sour. Education and school is not about drafting your dream team of basketball players. You’re not allowed to scout the Michael Jordans of the world; you’re supposed to take the rugrats who show up at the gym and create a team that will learn to depend on each other for support, fitness, and hopefully use their team skills to play in a championship at the end of the season. It’s about the community you build, not about the pocketbook and IQ.
I am a huge advocate for public education. However, I don’t get this concept of creating charter schools. When people see that their public schools are failing, shouldn’t they step up and make changes to the public school rather than spending millions of dollars to create an elitist charter school? I think so. If you care about the future of our nation and the future of our children, you know, the ones who will be making laws that will directly affect us when we are supposed to be getting social security, you better take a stand to support public education. Whether this means you join your school board, write letters to administrators, or letters to your local newspaper editor, it’s time to take a stand and share your view. What do you think our public schools need? (If you answer “two-ply toilet paper,” you really need to get a life.)