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Thursday, October 06, 2011

White Flight? Affluent Fluidity

Three districts in the state of Missouri failed to meet standards.  St. Louis Public, Riverview Gardens and now Kansas City have lost accreditation, and according to state law students from those districts can attend other schools. This morning on the radio a spokesman for the Missouri Education Reform Council stated that he favored open enrollment. After my initial throat scorching scream, I reconsidered and still thought it was a horrible idea.

The exact quote that set me off was this:

“I’d ask that you think of the plight of these students and parents that are kind of trapped by their zip code 
into these unaccredited or so-called failing schools, and hopefully a solution can be found for that," Knodell said.

Trapped? Such an obvious pathos move conjuring images of students peering at education through locked bars or snared in a net dangling just above a pile of textbooks. I thought, "This is a man that has less support for his ideas than my students do for their sagging pants."

Knodell is Joe Knodell. On Joe's linkedin page I learned that, well I learned absolutely nothing. Joe is a lobbyist with no prior jobs or interests.

I did learn a little about his rhetorical skill at the Columbia Business Times. Apparently he doesn't like to waste time with facts and figures. He merely states that unless you are an intellectually stunted recluse, then you already know them, and they must support his point of view. 

"I could list the statistics that show Missouri lags behind in student achievement and how the United States stacks up against other developed countries in math and science — but these facts have been in front of us and in the media for quite some time." Columbia Business Times

As a supporter of anecdotal evidence Joe would also like you to know that teachers are slackers.

Oh so now we know that he was a former superintendent, but I am even more concerned now with his rhetorical style.

When a pitcher is "cruising" we are happy. It means that he is being successful without struggle. Even cruise control in a car is designed to take over the mundane task of moving one's foot from the accelerator to the brake and back again, a task that though vital probably uses more computing cycles than necessary. If a teach has become so good at their job that the lower level tasks have become automatic then we should applaud those teachers. We have developed muscle memory. The repetitive tasks of our profession are now second nature.

Joe Knodell must be right, however, because he was a superintendent, and most superintendents I know spend a majority of their time observing all of the teachers in their district. I am sure he has extensive data to back up what appears to be a poorly fleshed out anecdote.

Joe lobbies on behalf of  Missouri Education Reform Council, which as far as I can tell is a blog. MERC doesn't even think they are that much. From their own "about" link we learn that, "The Missouri Education Roundatable Council’s mission is to promote improvement in Missouri’s K-12 educational system, including increasing performance, accountability and transparency." 

It's as if they took the mission statement formula and created that sentence.

[name of organization] + [linking verb and positive infinitive]+
[parallel structure of catch-phrases and jargon]=Our Mission

And they even got the name of the organization wrong. From the time of their creation to the time they wrote their mission the word "reform" changed to "roundtable."

From this same website we learn that Joe's curriculum vitae includes a litany of rural schools that come no closer to St. Louis, or any of the unaccredited schools, than Poplar Bluff.

Concerned educators, students and citizens will be happy to know that Joe bases his decisions "on what is best for the student, and what will further their educational goals." As a reformer this is a distinct break from the stated goal of most educators.  Perhaps that is the reason MERC recently changed to a roundtable instead of a reform.

I am going to ask for a seat at this table because just from a logic and logistical point of view I don't see how open enrollment would help anyone that isn't part of the entitled class. If we are in this for the students as Joe says then we should consider that some students won't have access to open enrollment because trap was designed by our whole society and its economic structure and not by a bunch of teachers on "cruise control." These students will be left behind in economically depressed districts with nearly empty classrooms and a disheartened and unappreciated staff.

White flight (affluent fluidity, in our post-racial era) is not reform. It is a return to the lunacy of the Topeka school board, racially motivated tracking, and classic classism.

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