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The Myth of Charter Schools

December 4, 2010

Waiting for Superman poster

A movie indicting US public schools called Waiting for Superman is sweeping America and will feed interest in charter schools here as well. A potent corrective comes in the form of an essay by Diane Ravitch in the New York Review of Books November 11.

There was a time,she argues, when most people assumed student performance was determined by their own efforts and support of their families, not by their teachers, some of whom will be good, some bad. But in the end most schools offered opportunity for those willing to take it. Now there’s a move to blow up public education.

She writes :

“If the economy is a shambles, if poverty persists…if American kids are not as serious about their studies as their peers in other countries, the schools must be to blame….It is not globalization or deindustrialisation or poverty or our coarse popular culture …that bear responsibility : it’s the public schools, their teachers, and their unions.”

I think there’s more to be heard about charter schools and my impression is that US public schools are failing. But this article is a corrective not just to the charter school push but, in my view, to the intellectual laziness that says there isn’t a problem in society or families that the schools can’t solve . I call it schools fundamentalism. And it’s normally accompanied by demands for more funding unassociated with performance indicators of any kind. See The Public Prodigals below.

4 Comments
  1. Jesse D permalink
    December 5, 2010 8:47 pm

    Are the parents who are so desperately wanting to get their children into a charter school ignorant or stupid? They believe that a charter school offers a better education – are they misguided?

  2. Bob Carr permalink
    December 6, 2010 6:39 pm

    Yes, read that too. It’s where I got the expression blow up public schools – which some of the proponents of charter schools seem to want. They may be right , in America at least, but Ravitch’s article makes me want to think about it more.

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