Friday, September 29, 2006

Radicalism, neoliberalism, and other words I wish I never had to use

Last night I went to a panel put on by NYCoRE, the New York Collective of Radical Educators. The keynote speaker was a CA teacher who, without going into detail about his particular radical educational practice, roused all of us teachers and teachers-to-be into a radical dither.

The teacher, Jeff Duncan-Andrade, talked about how his first three years teaching, each year he would get the "March 15th letter" saying he would "not be invited back next year," and each year in June he would get the "Teacher of the Year" award from the students. He posited that since urban schools are not set up to educate poor and minority children, for teachers to succeed in teaching them, they must fail at their jobs.

He said that for the first 15 years of teaching, he fought the system, and in the 16th year he started his own school -- the East Oakland Community High School. It came home and tried to figure out if it was a charter school, and it doesn't look like it is. I wondered why they would choose not to open such a school as a charter school. Is it just because the charter movement is associated with conservative, free-market, anti-"radical" ideas? Or is there something else?

Any thoughts? Chris has been submerged in reading about neoliberalism with barely enough time to come up for air, and has been talking to me about how charter schools are a good example of neoliberalism. (But so is everything, apparently.)


Rob H. said...

Well, there's usually two takes on this. One, charter schools, although technically public, take money away from the general fund of public education. So, the district itself loses funding with every charter opened. Second, lots of folks (myself included) see it as a step towards privatizing education. In general, Americans see public education as part of the democratic vision and won't tolerate abolosighing it but....if you take baby steps. Related: 61% of all schools in New Orleans are charter now and they allow vouchers for religious schools. That seems to be the plan: first charters, then vouchers, then privatize the whole damn thing.

As for neoliberalism, this makes perfect sense as the unfettered pursuit of new markets is the supreme and really only goal. As a public good, they were outside the market system--bad news if your a neoliberal

julie said...

Hi Rob, I think you're partly right -- there are some people in the charter movement (I've worked with them) who see charter schools as "half a loaf" and vouchers as the "whole loaf." But I don't think that it is, as you say, the plan. There are many people in the charter movement who see charter schools as a way to save public education -- who believe firmly in public education. I think the half-a-loaf people are no longer the engine behind the charter school movement. Check out this post by Eduwonk.