Just Read!

The True Power of Literacy (or Another Reason I’m Not Feeling Charter Schools)

Jose Vilson Jose 1 Comment

Just Read!

Just Read!

How many times have you heard the following sentence?

“That’s not what I said. Listen / read clearly.”

This statement usually comes about when, either out of sheer emotional attachment to the subject or their own obstinance, they ignore what someone’s saying and it becomes a discussion about something that’s closer to their hearts rather than to their very eyes. Just recently, for instance, Mike Klonsky of Small Talk posted about charter schools and how misleading the comparisons can be between charter schools and “the rest of the” public schools (because, for some reason, when we’re talking about charter schools, we are and we’re not talking about public schools). Now, I’m all for a little rebel rousing:

And this is where I have a problem with so many advocates of charter schools:

They really think that having a new building, new facilities, pretty fancy things, and the like really make them that much better than public schools. Or for that matter, that it’s their schools that deserve those ornaments and not our students, who as NYCEd can tell you, still find their next period class in the next trailer over.

Performance pay is really just another form of elitist separatist policy, and the last thing we need is another institution, especially one so necessary for this country, to go private and susceptible to the whims of money-hungry demagogue CEOs.

I said it. After charter-proponent Obama’s last salvo about the good qualifications of charter schools, and after union-hating Bloomberg’s backslap against teachers on Snow Day, and after JD’s consistent news about some public school being turned into a charter school and another overcrowded public school, I have to draw another line in the sand somewhere.

Notice, though, that I never indicted the charter schools themselves. Even though I’ve witnessed some of the ugliness that goes on in charter schools, I made sure to criticize the advocates of charter schools, not the staff or teachers themselves, because it was relevant to the post. Um, duh. Plus, I try to follow the definition of literacy: “the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts.”

Now, you can read the words there and think I’m getting personal somehow and getting vindictive. But if we’re having an intelligent conversation, I’m expecting you to read every word and not act like I’m offending you personally by bringing up the advocates of charter schools … unless you, too, are an advocate. In which case, read up some more.

Because I’m not saying that public schools in general don’t suck. What I am saying is that many charter schools have people who believe many of our students aren’t worth the trouble. That many of our teachers aren’t worth having job security. That if you have a charter school in the same building as a public school, that the charter school takes precedence (think about those implications!) Think about the biggest individuals leading the charge for this “reform” movement: the very people who have corporate interest in their back pocket.

But please, I’m only a math teacher that’s asking you to read. Literacy isn’t read all over.

Jose, who’s started to read The Count of Monte Cristo …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

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