Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cooperate Makeover

Wells points out that our society has no true definition of what democracy is. It has become and an idea that is based on capitalism and consumerism.  The shift has ventured from a public standpoint to an economic standpoint. Part of the reason is the regulation of our markets. One of the main markets being controlled is Education.  Schools are being regulated by the school boards who are controlled by our government which privatizes ours schools policies.  Fabricant, Fine and Wells talks about this idea with their charter school argument.   Wells gets most of his information with his study of several California school districts. Wells says that charters schools are highly selective to continue to represent the highest achieving portion of students which in turn continues to suppress the students who are in the lower achievement gap.   So even though in theory charter schools are trying to promote equal education for those already in highly segregated public schools it further marginalizes those students   who are already starting off in that low band.  A lot of this Wells points out has to do with the lack of freedom schools have.  Schools are regulated in a way to support certain groups or individuals.  Wells points out that the solution is actually redefining what democracy is.  It has to be an idea that our decisions should include society as a whole rather than individuals and most of all de privatizing our markets.        

 Fabricant and Fine points out that charter schools were thought of as a way to save the public school sector.  The charter school movement was thought of as the answer to the opportunity gaps.  However the facts remain charters schools didn’t progress like they were supposed to.  Similar to Well’s argument it is because they are privatized.  When you put educational policies in the hands of the private sector you do not answer to public needs.  Therefore you only continue the system that is in place only in a different atmosphere.  Like we have talked about so many times in class if we do not answer to the needs of the public and give the public a place in some of our major decisions than nothing will change.      


  1. In Fabricant and Fine, I too found the progression of charter schools to be interesting. As much as I wish charters were still "borne of commitments to social justice, trying to provide marginalized youth what more privileged youth were getting in private schools" (p. 19), they aren't. It's a shame because those sound like the kinds of schools we want. (I'll be interested to see where Maggie Gyllenhaal's film plays into this conversation.)

    This ties in to the article on Glenn Hubbard in the Times as well. As an "academic," Hubbard is another tool in the neoliberalist arsenal to promote the privatization of schools for corporate, and his own, profit. The seediness of Hubbard's actions twists my gut. It is no wonder the faculty at Columbia Business School dislike him; he's a posterchild for self-interest and this dismantling of democracy. I sincerely hope he does not become the Treasury Secretary.

    Speaking to Brian's last point, giving the public a forum to voice its needs, I want to remind everyone in class to vote. Voting requires literally the smallest bit of democratic energy. It's important, as cliched as it sounds, to exercise your right and have some say in your government. Maybe we can renew some of that collective interest Judt talked about in the process.

  2. I agree with B(rian+ubbles)’s post about both Wells’ article plus Fabricant and Fine’s chapters— I like his summary of how charters really do not answer the problems in American education (and might even exacerbate them). I think he sums it up well in his quote: “When you put educational policies in the hands of the private sector you do not answer to public needs.”

    Several other ideas occurred to me that I would like to add to Brian’s summary and analysis. For one, which Olivia also touches on above, I thought it was very interesting how Fabricant and Fine delineated a brief history of charters to show that their intent was originally rooted in flexibility in order to experiment with educational best practices— clearly a supplement to traditional public schools, not a replacement. I also found it useful how Fabricant and Fine provided lists of questions in their second chapter that aid critically evaluating charter schools; for example, “how does an ethic of competition accord with the collective purposes of a public system of education?” and “if exemplary charter schools require greater financing, the don’t all public schools and charters merit similar investment?” were two questions I found particularly illuminating (pages 27 and 30, respectively). These two huge questions, particularly the idea of the “collective purposes,” reinforce what Wells argues about the misuse of the term democracy, and how its “progressive” meaning is completely inconsistent with the way neoliberals and charter school proponents use it.

    Overall I thought the article and chapters Brian writes about clearly reinforced what we saw in action on our field trip to NYC last week: charters are showered with funding, while public schools are clearly not. Even if charters and their ample funding were able to close the achievement gap (which they are not, based on Wells and Fabricant/Fine’s evidence), is this really a replicable model?

  3. I think Bubbles brings up a significant point in Wells’ article when he discusses the lack of freedom within schools due to neoliberalism today. Those who regulate schools hold the power in our education system. Throughout their article, the authors examine school officials who see our public education system through a neoliberal lens. Charter schools benefit individuals rather than the common people in our society. As Wells highlights, neoliberalism is moving our country away from a more equal democracy. Neoliberalism, which is grounded in the desire to afford individuals more freedom in our market system, “privileges those who have the economic, social and political power to make the market work for them” (343). As Bubbles says, schools are regulated to support certain individuals. While I read the readings for today’s class, I kept thinking about the discussion we had with Julie at PS 15. She emphasized how the movement for charter schools is not serving the students and their needs. From a firsthand account, we could hear how much a charter school has negatively impacted her public school and its students. What struck me the most in Fabricant and Fine’s book was the irony between charter schools’ mission and the actual performance of the schools, as many of my classmates touched on. Studies have shown that charter schools performance on tests is no better and often worse than public schools. PS 15 is an example of a successful school under NCLB. Despite this fact, the school’s space is being taken over by a charter school and is not receiving any sort of compensation. After reading these articles, it seems that the public school system is under attack in order to serve those who have the power in our education system.

  4. As Grace mentioned above, I also thought it was interesting that charter schools were originally created as a supplement to public education, not a replacement. Although the purpose of the charter schools were to provide flexibility and to provide another option than public schools, the actual practice of charters shows something different. Despite the belief that charter schools are performing better than public schools and should replace them, most charter schools are performing just as poorly as public schools, if not worse. It’s interesting to me that despite this fact, pressure is continuously put on public schools to be turned over to the private sector. As many people have already mentioned, these readings speak to what we clearly saw when we visited the HCZ and PS 15. Despite PS 15’s success, their space has been taken over by a charter school, greatly affecting the students and teachers of PS 15. As Bubbles mentioned, these charter schools are run to benefit certain individuals, not the students. As Fine and Fabricant point out, de-privatization of schools and markets is a necessary step towards improving our schools.

  5. I feel as though our trip to the HCZ and PS 15 really spoke volumes to everything that we have been reading about and continue to read about for this class. I honestly went into the field trip not completely sure as to what to expect, but found that I definitely felt differently leaving than I expected I would. As Caitlin mentioned above, regardless of the success that PS 15 is having, their space is being taken over by a charter school. Charter schools are supposed to be the “answer”, and are supposed to be giving a different opportunity to individuals, and promised that they will succeed. This could not be further off from the truth. The majority of charter schools are NOT succeeding, yet a public school that is, is rewarded for passing by having their space invaded by a charter school? In the Charter School-Public School debate, competition is seen as a primary argument. Fabricant and Fines discuss on page 112 that in this argument, the charter movement feels as though the lack of competition is the downfall of public education. In our own personal experience from our trip, we see that this is absolutely not the case. Fabricant and Fines state that collaboration in education is not tested, or considered. This is a problem because we see competition and high stakes tests being our only option for success in the education system. These options are wrong.

  6. I agree with everything said above, and really agree strongly with the fact that charter schools are aimed at individuals. While on our trip to HCZ, the administrators that we spoke with really tried to get us to understand how HCZ is benefitting the children in their area, and subtly attacked public schools, in explaining that charter schools are a better option. I cannot help but wonder how they feel about the students that are not given the opportunity to attend HCZ (or any charter school for that matter), either because they don’t have the means (parents’ involvement) or the luck to make it through the lottery. Fine and Friedman specifically mention HCZ because of its appearance of success, without the actual proof of this. Charters initially were supposed to “free a sector of schools from the red tape and formulaic practices of bureaucratized education” (19). However, I did not see any new and experimental practices in use at HCZ, other than perhaps the lack of apparent creativity.
    PS 15, on the other hand, seemed to me like an excellent public school. It is likely that other inner city public schools are not like PS 15, but I think it is a good example of a public school that is required to adhere to federal standards because it is a school within the DOE, but it seemed like a happier place that would cultivate kids who want to learn, not just be crammed with information. This speaks to the idea of charter schools’ appealing to certain individuals instead of the students, as many have touched upon, which is very clearly a backwards way of running a school. Schools should be for the children, not the adults.