Now, perhaps “charter schools” – as strictly defined – are not the best solution. Perhaps “pilot schools” are a better option. In Boston, I know that there are a number of excellent high schools that are pilot schools. I confess I don’t know the exact difference, but perhaps someone can enlighten me some more on that front as well.
But getting back to my primary point: we as a state need to ask ourselves the hard questions. I’d point people to the Oprah episode with Bill Gates from earlier this year, but I can’t find the exact link. But the jist was this: Oprah followed a bunch of black and latino Chicago school kids as they toured a posh suburban white public high school, and then the suburban kids visited the inner city school. Both groups of kids (and yours truly too) were absolutely flabbergasted at the discrepancies between the schools.
But look in our own back yards. Take a walk to Madison Park high school in Roxbury. Check out the concrete wasteland surrounding it, check out its dilapidated facilities. Then check out a place like Newton North high school, and take a look at the designs famed architect Graham Gund has done for its new facility.
Now, I know it’s easy to say that it’s precisely because charter schools are draining money from school systems that these schools in black and latino communities are suffering. While that’s probably not exactly true, it could be a factor, and please, someone, demonstrate to me why it’s true if it is. But the innovation, the dedication, the cutting edge education that is going on at the vast majority of charter schools is too powerful to ignore because it is giving hope to literally thousands of kids who would otherwise be left behind due to latent racist policies that have existed for generations both inside and outside the educational arena. (I also recognize that there have been instances where charter schools have failed. But I argue that a)the successes far outweigh the failures and b) the media’s fascination with the failures is due to just that: the media’s fascination with failure as opposed to success (when was the last time you heard “news” that was good but wasn’t in the context of some “human interest story”?)
So, where does this leave me? Here: we should not be stifling innovation and creativity in the name of saving money. We should not stifle innovation because it’s taking money away from the non-charter public schools. (If this Hobbes-ian choice is occurring, the we should come up with a solution – and perhaps “Pilot schools” are an answer.)
For too long our educational system has reflected the racism that still thrives in our society today. It is only by creating a new, highly educated black and latino upper middle class that we will conquer these challenges. Because going to a prestigious college or university is such a master key for success in this world, we must do all we can to ensure more black and latino kids get into elite colleges. (Or, at the very least, sharply increase the percentage of black and latino kids that go to four year colleges.) Only then will our society become more equal, more fair, and more democratic.
By way of disclosure, I should state the following: I have studied critical race theory extensively, hence my thoughts on this issue. CRT is a much more complex field than simply thinking everything is racist – as too many people often assume. But after studying and working in the field, it’s not too hard to see how latently racist our society is. For another powerful example, take a look at how much higher asthma rates are in black and latino communities in Boston and you’ll know what I mean. That doesn’t mean we can’t fix it, that doesn’t mean we should all feel guilty. It just means that we need innovative, entrepreneurial ways to solve the problem, and I am of the opinion that the benefit provided by charter schools is one way to accomplish the larger goal of becoming a more just society.