by Catherine Delahunty
This week I met the two American visitors who represent both sides of the Charter Schools debate.
Mike Feinberg is here advocating for the KIPP model of Charter Schools and Karran Harper Royal is a New Orleans parent activist who tells the story of the impact of Charter Schools on state education in New Orleans.
Mike paints a picture of failure across the USA education system which he says his “Knowledge is Power Programme” can help solve.
Karran describes a beaten-down community manipulated into a competitive model of education.
In my personal meeting with Feinberg he was careful to claim that Charter Schools are not a silver bullet, but he did support unregistered teachers and he is a graduate of the “Teach for America” programme (like the Teach First programme here) which takes bright tertiary students and parachutes them into schools with minimal training.
Mike manifests great enthusiasm for academic learning, long hours at school, constant testing and KIPP’s motto “work hard be nice”.
But what was revealing was what he didn’t mention: The value of critical thinking for example, or the benefits to corporates both from the underfunding of state schools and their ability to pump more funds into their favourite charter school.
Rich Americans sponsor Charter Schools because “work hard be nice” is good for them. Work hard in school and don’t question the goals of corporate America, be nice because authority knows best for you. Greed and inequality cannot be challenged. It’s no surprise then that multi-millionaire Julian Robertson sponsored Feinberg’s trip here.
I suggested to Mike that we actually don’t need his model and that he is being used as a political weapon in a war against public education.
Karran Harper Royal spoke about draconian disciplinary methods she’s seen in New Orleans charter schools reminiscent of Victoria Britain. She described how at one school there was a line in the playground behind which some kids must work in silence. She talked about attrition rates and of schools counselling out “failing students.
Most importantly she warned Christchurch people to keep fighting if they want genuine parent participation, not some Orwellian definition of “choice” that undermines their local state schools. She believes in public education free of corporate interests and I say amen to that