Thursday, September 19, 2013

Life of an ed blogger

"What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon it destroys our democracy." -- John Dewey, School & Society
Every day my mailbox is filled with requests from different promoters, asking me to pimp pump their products, their programs, and their private and charter schools. Urban public schools have no publicists.

Looks like fun, doesn't it?
I have no idea why some of these folks think I would want to promote them. But sometimes I do, unintentionally. Case in point, this morning I got this missive from Glenn Gray, who promotes something called the Heritage Academy.

Hi Mike, [they always address me by my first name]
Heritage Academy – a progressive, coeducational school (grades 5-12) located on Hilton Head Island – announces a fall class representing 25 countries and 20 U.S. states. A record 11 different activities are featured this year, including aviation, ballroom dance, crew, equestrian, fast track education, golf, interior design, swimming, modern dance, tennis and volunteering. High res images are available upon request. Thank you for your consideration.
Tuition at Heritage is a modest $15K/year. Modest that is, when compared to Chicago's new elite GEM Academy, which runs from $32-$37K. Let's just say, it's not for everybody.

Usually, I just do a quick run-through of the morning mail and hit the delete button 20 times. Problem solved. But I couldn't help myself on this one. I think it was the word progressive that jumped out on me.

Few public schools would dare call themselves progressive in this, the age of Race To The Top, testing madness, and corporate "reform." They would run the risk of being "reformed" out of existence. Yet this chic private academy on Hilton Head, whose curriculum is loaded with every subject the children of the rich need to learn in order to join the country's ruling class -- did they forget polo and fox hunting? -- pitches itself to its target audience as a "progressive" alternative.

Jean Anyon
It brought to mind research by the late Jean Anyon on the class nature of curriculum. Anyon studied the experiences of children in working class, middle class and wealthy elite schools. In the elite schools, she found, for example:
While strict attention to the lesson at hand is required, the teachers make relatively little attempt to regulate the movement of the children at other times. For example, except for the kindergartners the children in this school do not have to wait for the bell to ring in the morning; they may go to their classroom when they arrive at school. Fifth graders often came early to read, to finish work, or to catch up. After the first two months of school, the fifth-grade teachers did not line the children up to change classes or to go to gym, and so on, but, when the children were ready and quiet, they were told they could go--sometimes without the teachers. -- Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work
Peter Orrell, President and CEO of Junior Sports Corporation, owner/operator of the Heritage Academy puts it this way.
“To position students for success at the next level, we promote individual and differentiated attention in each classroom.”
Yes, progressive in form. But missing progressive education's democratic heart. "Progressive" ed, learning through doing, connection with the world of work, for the elite. Race To The Top, testing madness and intellectual rigor mortis for the rest.

Glad to help, Glenn.


  1. "...and volunteering"

    That may just be the sickest part of all. Volunteering is just another "activity" for elite children in line with "aviation" and "ballroom dancing". It's so good for children to have new experiences!


    1. I so agree, Dienne! And it's especially helpful to everyone, particularly when Heritage's well-rounded grads perform their most valuable public service ("volunteering") ever--as a TFA!!! Imagine all the future TFAers doing Heritage PROUD--going down into those blighted areas, helping those poor little babies! Oh--society owes SO much to Heritage & to others of its ilk--turning out such good-hearted people who will save our children from themselves!

      And let's not get started on all those wonderful TFAers who (magically) turn into school (even state!) administrators after 5 months training and 2 years teaching!


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.