Poor and black? Brown and disadvantaged? Or just a child of any ethnicity unlucky enough to be trapped in the failure that everyone seems to think is Dallas ISD?
Jim Schutze of the Dallas Observer has the answer to your salvation.
First we learned that trustee Mike Morath was on a “mission from God” to reform Dallas public schools. Whether that reform is a home rule takeover or a state mandated removal into a school district run by for-profit charter management companies, the steady drumbeat from Morath and the corporate donors at Texans for Education Reform is sure to be a death knell for community schools in your neighborhood, schools with veteran teachers and administrators that know your children and respond to their needs.
Now Jim Schutze wants us to know that Mike Miles is “the only one I see who has devoted himself to the cure” of the “social cancer” afflicting your children, the cancer of “ economic deprivation, racial segregation and other soul-withering cruelties will turn too many of them into transient mentally ill criminals.”
And, Hallelujah! Mike Miles is “the one telling us there is a light, and he can see the light, and he will bring the light to the children. “
Perhaps this is Jim’s attempt at a holiday column. Visions of Paul Crume’s “Angels Among Us” and Dale Hansen’s “Thank God for Kids” must dance in his head.
Unfortunately the only uplifting thought Schutze can come up with is that Mike Miles is, apparently, the savior of your poor black or brown child.
And that salvation must come through “The only window we have … the schools.”
All this praise for Mike Miles is simply praise for the one thing he has brought to Dallas with a vengeance, the faux reform idea that teachers are the root cause not only of society’s collective failure to provide for poor children, but are also the determiner of each individual child’s future as they pass through their classroom, as if each exit door has two possibilities, prison or no prison.
And let’s not forget that even more insulting possibility, the door that leads straight from ineffective teaching to mental illness and life in a cardboard shack under a bridge.
So we script teacher’s lessons, mandate teaching strategies, judge student engagement by how many times they give a “thumbs up,” outlaw crayons, and open doors.
And we test. We test so much the teachers have no time to teach, and we test everyone, even the little ones who should first experience the joy of learning before they have to experience the reality of comparison, a comparison in which they may find they don’t quite measure up.
Now, instead of having our most at risk students looking for an exit strategy in high school, as they find themselves labelled failures by Pearson, we start them on the path of self-doubt as kindergartners.
How better to set a child on the pipeline to prison than by demonstrating to them that they are a failure at the age of six?
Veteran teachers know that the children they teach have talents and ambitions beyond those judged by standardized tests, and that focusing on those tests as a measure of achievement denies those children the opportunity to develop the very skills that will make them thoughtful, resourceful citizens and, in an ironic twist, might even equip them to excel on those tests.
Schutze aligns himself with most reformers who know what’s best for “other peoples’ children” saying he “wonder[s] sometimes if the teaching methods appropriate for traumatized minority poor kids can coexist in the same district with methods more appropriate for less disadvantaged children.”
This is the flip side of the “soft bigotry of low expectations” mantra, which Todd Williams and Mike Miles use to shame any that disagree with their methods. All children have the same capabilities and we should expect the same results, yet somehow poor minority kids must take a different path to that achievement. What is good for the children and grandchildren of these folks on the TER advisory board, almost exclusively enrolled in private, parochial, or elite public schools, is somehow not also beneficial for poor kids.
Poor kids don’t need creative arts, guided discussions with veteran teachers, access to innovative technology, fully staffed and supported science labs, field trips, a smorgasbord of interesting elective classes, and a clean, safe campus.
They apparently don’t even need toilet paper.
Poor kids need testing, online learning, unregulated and mismanaged charter schools, teachers with 5 weeks of training, and constant micromanagement of their learning environment.
Funny how that works, isn’t it?
It takes hope and resilience for a child to experience failure and learn from it, using that failure as a guidepost, not a roadblock.
Our children are resilient, that is a certainty. But who is giving them hope?
That is my Christmas wish for the students of Dallas ISD; that you know that your teachers believe in you and that you find within yourselves the courage and the determination to succeed. Remember that you are defined by your dreams, not by any other measure.
Ignore those that would tell you anything different.
Be joyful. Be triumphant!