That was the question asked by C-student and President George W. Bush before he seamlessly morphed into a lucrative but still-unexamined private life of self-portraiture and ghostwritten memoirs.
That was the wrong question. For what we should be asking is not if our children is learning, but WTF is our children learning? You might be surprised. Or not.
If our children is learning in a charter school, mainly operated for the profit of the ruling class whom the children are expected to eventually serve, the first challenge for the elites is to change their very essence, their very personality, their very core. Rather than build and maintain more public or affordable housing, rather than enact a government-sponsored jobs program so that their parents can support them, rather than increase the food stamp stipend so that children aren't too hungry to learn, reformers want pupils to develop what they call grit. It's not their lives that need improving. It's their attitudes.
|Hominy Grits for the Homies|
It gives a whole new meaning to the already odious Common Core.
If this "personality curriculum" -- on which pupils are actually graded -- isn't racist and classist, I don't know what is. Yet the New York Times is treating this bizarre effort at social engineering as, at the very least,"possibly" legitimate.
Self-control, curiosity, “grit” — these qualities may seem more personal than academic, but at some schools, they’re now part of the regular curriculum. Some researchers say personality could be even more important than intelligence when it comes to students’ success in school. But critics worry that the increasing focus on qualities like grit will distract policy makers from problems with schools.Notice that the gratuitous other side of this manufactured "debate" is defined as problems with schools rather than problems with wealth inequality and stagnating wages in the larger society. No time is wasted before the erection of the stereotypical straw man in this editorial, written by OpTalk columnist Anna North.
The KIPP network of charter schools emphasizes grit along with six other “character strengths,” including self-control and curiosity. Leyla Bravo-Willey, the assistant principal at KIPP Infinity Middle School in Harlem, said, “We talk a lot about them as being skills or strengths, not necessarily traits, because it’s not innate.”
How about giving the child a snack to help her concentrate in class? How about asking whether her apartment has heat during this cold winter? Maybe she's physically gritty and uncomfortable because the place where she lives has no hot water for baths and showers. But as long as she attends a school named "Infinity" or "Renaissance Academy" and can wear a private school knockoff of a uniform, she can aspire to be as snobbish as the investor class which owns and names her publicly-subsidized and privately profitable place of learning.“If a child happens to be very gritty but has trouble participating in class,” she added, “we still want them to develop that part of themselves.”
Another criticism of the personality curriculum that North mentions in her column is that it fails to teach "morality." The kids being graded on the principles of Ayn Randian bootstrappiness are learning selfishness instead of kindness. The implicit, subliminal message from even the critics of the Grit method is that we can't have these minority overachievers stomping all over one another in their quest to become Top Servant. The aspiring butler has to be kind to the incipient scullery maid. The budding staff sergeant must be humane to the buck private. There cannot be dissension in the lower ranks.
Grit, meanwhile, is making tons of money for its proponents. And it is by no means restricted to charter schools. Strapped public school districts, too, are vying for Grit Grants funded by (who else) the Gates Foundation:
Piedmont (Alabama) Middle School has been chosen as one of 16 recipients nationwide of grants to fund a new initiative teaching, among other things, grit. Next Generation Learning Challenges, funded partly by the Gates Foundation, will provide $150,000 in initial funding and up to $300,000 in matching funds for "mBolden Piedmont." The funding will be implemented over the next four years. That means the school could receive as much as $750,000 for the program.So it's not just the inner city kids who must learn "tenacity". It's the poor kids from rural communities. Poverty is an equal opportunity scourge, as is the greed and tenacity of the financial predators making a ton of money through exploiting the indigent in infinite creatively destructive ways.
But to be fair to gazillionaire Bill Gates, his co-gazillionaires over at the Walton Family aren't donating any money at all to the financially strapped schools, for any reason. They are, however, spending a fortune to ensure that public education gets destroyed, and gets destroyed quickly:
In a June 2011 speech to the graduating class of the private school her son Lukas attended, Christy Walton explained that her family became involved in K-12 education reform because their business—presumably Walmart—“was having trouble finding qualified people to fill entry-level positions” and because the family believed that “the education being provided [in public schools] had been dummied [sic] down.”The Walton heirs, who despite their limited vocabulary and intellectual skills possess as much wealth as nearly half of all American families combined, want to forgo schools entirely and simply supply poor parents with "education vouchers" so they may teach their children as they see fit. And given that so many poor families lack even the basics of food and shelter, the result most likely will be that the money will go toward survival instead of school. What the Waltons see fit is the survival of the fittest: them.
Our "choice" is becoming limited to no public schools at all (Walton) or taxpayer-funded schools controlled by, and profiting, the plutocracy (Gates.)
And let's not forget that since we're also pawns in the lucrative and permanent War of Terror, we must also ensure that children are force-fed paranoia as one of the essential American personality traits. This just in:
A letter sent to parents of students at W.F. Burns Middle School in Chambers County (Alabama again) asked students to bring in an 8 ounce can of food, AL. com's news partner WHNT reported.
Principal Priscilla Holley said the items would be used against an intruder - presumably thrown at them - if someone entered the school.
"We realize at first this may seem odd, however, it is a practice that would catch an intruder off guard," Principal Priscella Holley wrote in a Jan. 9 letter to parents. "The canned food item could stun the intruder or even knock him out until police arrive. The canned good item will give the students a sense of empowerment to protect themselves and will make them feel secure in case an intruder enters the classroom."
The idea is part of the ALICE - Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. You can read more about it here.Actually, you can learn more about pediatric Kafkaesque nightmares here:
|Pay Attention, You Horrid Little Gritless Girl!|
The Alabama school prefers canned peas (as in, eat them, proles) or corn. (because Corn is King and cheaply supplements the diets of the poor, But I would suggest Bush's canned grits (shown above.)They're cheap, full of salt and low in nutritional value but boy, do they fill you up. They give you the grand illusion of substance. Eat them, throw them up, or just throw them. It's your free choice.
But is nobody asking the question: is our children learning KIPP-mandated self control if they're encouraged to engage in canned food fights against "intruders?" And what's the definition of an intruder anyway? Immigrant students? The Alabama principal did not specify.
Rather than hurling, though, how much more tempting to simply pry open thousands of cans of creamed corn and golden hominy grits, trickle them all over completed standardized tests, and send them by the bushel to Pearson and Arne Duncan's Department of Education.
On second thought, scratch that. Pranksters would only be charged with making terrorist threats against the free market and sentenced to a private Corrections Corporation of America prison somewhere where the only book in the library is Decision Points.
"Childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured." -- George W. Bush.