Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

Segmenting of America

January 30, 2009

These are signs of our times:

Chicago Public Schools is developing a high school for gay and lesbian students to better serve these students needs.

New America Charter Schools operate in Colorado and New Mexico with a mission of empowering new immigrants and English language learners.

Kipp School leaders advocate for separate schools for the economically disadvantaged because their learning needs are very different than more affluent students.

The Denver Urban League operates neighborhood learning centers in partnership with Hope Online Learning Academy because their constituents are "lost" in traditional schools.

In the St. Vrain Valley charter schools open to satisfy stylistic differences.  Some families prefer structure and uniforms.  They choose core knowledge schools.  Others prefer more self-directed learning.  They choose a Montessori approach.

And, within traditional St. Vrain schools nearly a quarter of families exercise use of open enrollment, which leads to a tremendous sorting out of students by ethnic groups.

Choice is a part of our lives to stay.  Anyone who argues that we should end choice would be just as likely to succeed at arguing that women should not be in the workforce.

But, what are the unintended consequences of the segmenting of America and the segmenting of education.

One of the things that attracts me to public education and schools is the potential of this institution to build a civil society.  It is more difficult to build civil society in a segmented world.

The jury is out on whether homogeneous schools will better serve the academic needs of children.  Perhaps there is academic merit to this approach. 

Meantime, there is no doubt in my mind that we need to be more intentional about bringing together young people of different interests and backgrounds to learn from and with one another.  We need only look around the world to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and central Africa to see the consequences of balkanization.

We need new ideas and new methods to make this happen.  We're not going to do it by forcefully assigning students to schools.  Besides, just sharing space is of limited value.

The adults in America must show leadership.  We must embrace the value of diversity.  We must help our children to embrace it, too.

Diversity will not go away.  Understanding is the only way to make it valuable.  Surely we can find a place for that within our education system.

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Colorado SAFE

June 22, 2008

The Colorado constitution is tied in knots.  Our legislature's ability to manage competing state needs as circumstances change is severely limited.  As voters, we have placed caps on revenues and mandated spending.  These are not reconcilable differences.

Colorado SAFE – Savings Account for Education – is and innovative effort to untangle these knots.  I encourage you to take a look.  I'm curious what you think.