I found the contrast between Lack’s and Buras’s articles interesting, to say the least. Buras highlights the shock and awe side of the Recovery School District charter school movement in New Orleans, while Lack focused on the KIPP schools, a less commonly critiqued branch of the charter school movement. In each of these widely disparate instances, the proponents of the schools would have you believe that the charter schools are able to embody the spirit of innovation, thus paving the way for the success of each of its students. Whether this occurs through the concept of parent ‘choice’ and competition (the good ol’ neoliberal way, which the New Orleans residents were literally crying out for) or through the enforcement of military-grade discipline (which just drips with the essence of efficiency,) parents- or ‘consumers’ - are led to believe that their school are progressive, responsive to ‘what really works’, cutting edge- in short, they would serve their children better than any run-of-the-mill public school could. As a result, charter schools are viewed as the way out, the only way for individual success.
In demanding ‘innovation’ and choice, several key factors are missed. If parents could see past the novelty and the ‘innovative’ label that has been stuck on these schools, they would find that what they perceive as innovation is, quite often, really just the maintenance of the status quo, a restriction of creativity, a departure from the development of critical thinking. Innovation in and of itself can be a frightening thing. Innovation needs a goal- in education, this ought to involve the development of students as both individuals and members of society, able to think critically with concern for society, rather than conforming to society because someone- someone ‘innovative’- told you it is more efficient that way. Also, innovation may, very likely, translate into experimentation, especially when the less powerful members of low SES are concerned. We find, in these instances, that the concern of the innovators seems to lie beyond the students with whom they are working.
With all of the outcry for change and the warm reception of charter schools, a tension seems to exist between what is demanded of public schools with respect to innovation, and the leash they are given to accomplish it. Parents, students, teachers, and other citizens acknowledge the need for change, yet public schools are denied the flexibility which is granted to charter schools, and instead are tied down by standardized tests and the like. It seems that the public is disgruntled with the state, lacks faith in the collective and its ability to innovate and progress, doubts the strength of its teachers, and is willing to take a chance on the innovators behind the charter schools- those clever and ambitious entrepreneurs who are so attractive by our neoliberal standards. When frustrated with the state (the scapegoat), who wouldn't choose to try something new? Especially when it promises you the world, and its 'innovative' novelty is so shiny.