Sunday, September 21, 2008

Education...the New Hope!

Everyone start singing the Star Wars theme with me will ya? Du-duuu, du-du-du-duuuu-du, du-du-du-duuuu-du, du-du-du-duuuuu. In a city far, far away a man has come up with a plan to save the youth of Harlem. He's raised money, bribed children, and forced teachers to do their jobs. He is Geoffrey Canada, and he's my candidate for Supreme Chancellor of Education.

I want to stay positive here and say that there is this man, doing something real, in a small area in Harlem...and it's WORKING. Scott wrote a post in which he gives many a link to a story about Mr. Canada and all that he is doing to boost the education of these inner-city children. I gives me hope that we can see what works and what doesn't work. CBS news has the report on the Harlem Kids Zone. I am not going to point out what I don't like and what potentially could be and is bad about the program. What I am going to do is point out a few things I think is making it work:

1. Parents are involved. There are classes to teach parents how to parent, even while the child is still in the womb. Classes that teach that you don't need to yell at or beat your children and you can still get them to behave.

2. There is a lottery to get in and many kids don't get in. Once you get in, you need to stay in. Kids aren't going to mess with that because of point number 1.

3. They have funding. Part of it is from the govt. (which is available to all charter schools), and more of it comes from private donations.

4. It is in a very isolated area (something like an 80 block radius).

5. They are free to educate, spend money, discipline, and teach in the way that THEY choose to do it, not the way the government tells them to or parents insist on them doing it. This goes back to number 2 and number 1. If, as a parent or child, you disagree with the school you are free to leave at any time. There are plenty of other willing participants ready to take your place. In a public school setting, many educators and administrators are overrun by parents and parent groups who end up running the school. Because the principal does not have the ability to tell the family to leave, the school ends up adapting to the students needs. If you look at that from a special education stand point it is a good thing, if you look at it from a mouthy discipline case of a kid, it is a bad thing. (Obviously, I am choosing the later mouthy kid when I say that this program is working. I'm not sure how Sp.Ed works in the Zone.)

6. Teachers have to do their jobs. Mr. Canada has fired 10 times the number of teachers that would typically have been let go. He expects them to help the children succeed and excel to the best of their abilities. He expects teachers to work until 6pm at night if needed. By golly, he wants teachers to teach. Interesting. (I can name at least 3 other people reading this blog that would be teaching right now if they didn't have children. They know that it takes this kind of commitment to teach and quite frankly, you can't do the job if you want to raise a family too.)

Like I said, the plan is not fool-proof and it certainly can't be spread across the globe, but I wanted to let you all know I have hope. After all my totally negative education posts I thought I should fill you in on the good that is out there. There are some great public schools, principals, and teachers floating around and there are people making a difference. If you haven't read the article, go READ IT!

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