Friday, July 20, 2012

Why a School Is Not Like a Business

by Diane Ravitch
A reader responds to an earlier post. This reader says that schools are like churches; some say they are like families. As the previous post said, they are built on relationships. When a school closes, a community dies. Those in big corporate cultures don’t understand this. They are used to closing down low-performing units, firing people who aren’t at the top of the stack ranking. This is everyday stuff for them. They don’t understand community. They understand data. They overlook the daily expose of corporate misuse of data (see Enron, WorldComm, LIBOR, or your local business page). If anyone steps forward to defend the community, they will be called “defenders of the status quo.” In the past, they would have been called patriots.
This is so true. Schools operate like churches where individuals work together for the common good. Sharing highs and lows of putting on a school wide musical, laughing and crying together when children earn a scholarship or when children die, brainstorming strategies to help the family of a student who is suddenly homeless.

These events create bonds that last a lifetime. Our janitor lost his father, our cafeteria lady lost her husband, our principal’s wife had a baby, our staff and parents showed up at the funeral home and made food for the families. The school needs a new playground. A group of parents donate money and time to build it on weekends. These are people who anticipate a long term (meaning YEARS) relationship with their children’s school. To this day, I receive a birthday card every year from the family of one a student whom I taught 25 years ago. Birthdays are extremely special in her family so I always made time in class for her family to share her birthday with her classmates. If this happened today, we wouldn’t have time, we’d be prepping for tests.

The business community doesn’t want to round out the ramifications of their reforms. Whenever I read of a school shutting down in spite of strong community protests, I feel real pain in my stomach. Education attracts people who have a strong service ethic and who prefer the company of children, not corporate careerists who thrive on competition and risk. Teachers are extremely dedicated to their own professional growth because they view their growth as helping children experience success, not failure. Wouldn’t we want people like this teaching our children? Aren’t these relationships similar to those formed by the elite edu-reformers in their children’s schools?

Corporate reforers seem oblivious to their own lived experiences.
Teachers are the types of individuals who avoid conflict and work within relationships to build consensus. Corporate reformers live in a milieu of conflict. Their behaviors are classic bullying behaviors- the strong vanquishing the weak, the man subduing the woman- the market rewarding winners and bankrupting losers. Teacher’s good intentions are being exploited. That’s why I take their rhetoric and dumb ideas so personally. That’s why educators should confront them at every turn and on every level and never give up.

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