GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – An open letter to retired Michigan teacher Lou Kitchenmaster and the education establishment:
Okay. Parents suck. Kids suck. We get the point you’ve tried so hard to make.
But you have to admit, that excuse is getting old.
After all, there are few things more shameful in the education debate than when the adults blame the students.
Or more specifically, when they compare them to faulty products.
But that’s exactly what Kitchenmaster did. Comparing kids to materials, he wrote in a recent letter published by MLive, “None of us would expect our major auto makers to build a high-quality product given damaged or defective materials; however, too many unfairly expect our public schools to accomplish such – regardless of the inherent condition of the ‘product’ they receive.”
Spare us the excuses. Spare us the blame. Our children – and our future – are more important than that.
The fact is there are schools across the country that disprove Kitchenmaster’s defeatist theories every single day.
A couple years ago, EAGnews, along with renowned journalist Juan Williams, produced a short documentary, called “A Tale of Two Missions,” looking at Noble Street College Prep, a high-performing charter school in Chicago. The school caters to the very same students as Chicago Public Schools, yet the results could not be more different.
No cherry-picking. No suburban students.
Noble Street has a 99 percent graduation rate. It churns out first-generation, college-bound graduates who will be assets to society. And, by the way, it does it for less money than CPS.
How is that possible? Noble Street staff members don’t offer or accept excuses. Those in charge hold everyone accountable, including students, teachers, administrators and even parents. They closely scrutinize teacher quality, give principals autonomy and make sure staff members work closely and cooperatively to ensure student success.
Many other charter networks have the same no-nonsense approach. They will do whatever it takes to help children succeed.
American Indian Public High School in Oakland, California, founded by Ben Chavis, has a no-excuses attitude, as well. The schools drill the basics and students meet the expectations.
The Oakland-based school received a 10-for-10 rating from Great Schools (a school data website for parents) and Chavis recently told EAGnews the school’s graduates often complete college in three years instead of the typical four.
Sadly, we fear Kitchenmaster’s defeatist attitude is precisely what is wrong with public education.
It’s what former President George W. Bush referred to as the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”
He’s throwing up his hands and pretty much admitting it’s a lost cause. Frankly, we should be able to expect more from the people we “invest” in or else we should demand our money back.
Here’s an ingenious idea for all the woe-is-us educators like Kitchenmaster: Let’s free you from the burden of dealing with those poor, pathetic “damaged or defective” students. Let’s give them a government voucher to enroll at a private school that believes in their abilities and won’t let them fail.
You can pass the damaged goods on to somebody else. Trust us, the parents who have not had much in the way of school choice will thank you.
Oops. We can’t do that. Michigan’s Constitution won’t allow it. We guess those “damaged or defective” students will just have to remain trapped in schools that make excuses instead of getting the job done.
Has there been a decline in parenting? While there’s definitely a lack of quantifiable data, intuition indicates that’s the case.
Do two-parent homes lead to better educational outcomes? No question.
But children still need effective teachers who haven’t given up on them and quality instruction. If public school personnel are convinced that’s not possible, the law should allow them to get out of the way so others can get the job done.