Education in Oakland

Charter Schools: Cradles of Democracy

Posted by novometro on May 16, 2007

Okay, it’s from the Hoover Institution, but a study released Monday found that private schools and so-called schools of choice might be more successful at fostering civic values than ordinary public schools. The study’s purpose is clearly to give ammunition to school voucher advocates, a very bad idea in my opinion. But it’s worth reading the article as readers of this blog argue about the effect of charter schools on democracy.

The following paragraph from the researcher’s article in Education Next is of particular interest to people following reform in Oakland schools?

“The most intriguing explanation, in my opinion, for the apparent school choice advantage in promoting civic values is a generally higher level of order and discipline in schools of choice. Public charter schools and private schools tend to be more well-ordered education institutions than neighborhood public schools, especially in urban environments. A well-ordered and nonthreatening education environment likely contributes to students’ feelings of security and confidence. Such feelings might be a necessary precondition for young people to develop a willingness to tolerate potentially disruptive political ideas and political groups and to venture out into the community to promote social causes, an idea suggested by Alan Peshkin in his case study of a Christian fundamentalist school. There is a clear theoretical justification for linking a well-ordered education environment with stronger civic values, and I hope that future studies will explore this possibility. “


One Response to “Charter Schools: Cradles of Democracy”

  1. Caroline said

    I’m just non-Oaklander monitoring this blog, presumably temporarily, because as an avid follower of charter school politics I’m interested in the discussion of AIPCS.

    But while I’m here I have to respond to this too…

    Well, of course “schools of choice” provide parents with more sense of ownership, and even more so if they have no automatic assignments — meaning every single kid there had parents who had to request it(and thus who had it together to request a school to begin with, as opposed to those who are too dysfunctional to pay any attention).

    How much did Hoover pay some genius thinkier to point that out?

    But schools of choice don’t have to be undemocratic, unaccountable, answering-to-nobody charter schools. My school district, San Francisco Unified, is an all-choice district. Any family can request any school. For schools that get more requests than they have openings, assignment is by lottery, which causes angst, but most families get one of the schools they initially request. That may be part of the reason that SFUSD has the highest achievement of any large urban district in the state. Most SFUSD schools do also get automatic assignments; some don’t and are entirely by request.

    Just a note — while the essential point made by Mr. Hoover Genius is valid, be aware that Hoover is an advocacy organization promoting its positions, not a scholarly research facility. That’s why it doesn’t have to back up its points.

    However, this is another valid one and another “duh”: … Public charter schools and private schools tend to be more well-ordered education institutions than neighborhood public schools, especially in urban environments …

    That’s because charter and private schools pick, choose and kick out challenging, costly-to-educate, troublesome and disruptive students. Traditional public schools accept all students. That’s what private-school parents pay the big bucks for — no high-need kids taking up the teacher’s attention. And charters aren’t supposed to do that, but of course they do, since (as I said) they answer to no one and can do what they want. Ben Chavis and his counterpart at that other similar Oakland charter middle school are open about it.

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