The Race to The Top of NYC Private Schools

February 15, 2010

I would like to thank  @christianlong on twitter for encouraging me to write this post.  I have meant to start blogging about teaching and this was just the push I needed.  There is an interesting chopped up documentary on youtube here.  The documentary is about the intense competition for the elite private schools in Manhattan that all the wealthy kids go to school.   I do not want to summarize or paraphrase Christian’s ideas here. I am not even sure Christian disagrees with me.  But I really get upset when people suggest that the NYC education system is the problem while systematically undercutting to NYC education system at the same time. Which this documentary film does.  If all the students who got into the Prep schools featured in the Prep school video went to their local primary school, they would right away improve the test scores of those schools. There are deeper issues involved though beyond test scores.  I am not suggesting that we judge a school, district or system on test scores alone.  When the richest and more intelligent students leave a system like NYC public schools we have undermined the goal of a public education system.  Bright students not only raise test scores they bring other students up as well.  They are examples of the desire to learn for other students.  These bright students challenge their peers to reach further.  They show students that it is possible for all of them to achieve their best.  These bright and wealthy students bring engaged parents with them too.  Strong PTAs advocating for all students education.   Separate these bright and wealthy students out and we have two education systems.  And the Supreme Court already ruled on that.

For the creation of wealth, then,—for the existence of a wealthy people and a wealthy nation,—intelligence is the grand condition. The number of improvers will increase as the intellectual constituency, if I may so call it, increases. In former times, and in most parts of the world even at the present day, not one man in a million has ever had such a development of mind as made it possible for him to become a contributor to art or science…. Let this development proceed, and contributions . . . of inestimable value, will be sure to follow. That political economy, therefore, which busies itself about capital and labor, supply and demand, interests and rents, favorable and unfavorable balances of trade, but leaves out of account the elements of a wide-spread mental development, is naught but stupendous folly. The greatest of all the arts in political economy is to change a consumer into a producer; and the next greatest is to increase the producing power,—and this to be directly obtained by increasing his intelligence. For mere delving, an ignorant man is but little better than a swine, whom he so much resembles in his appetites, and surpasses in his power of mischief…. ( Horace Mann )

Even in the early 1800’s Mann understood the ability of human capital to create new capital.  Mann’s goal for universal education and influence still resonates with me.  Creating charter schools in instead of fixing the public system.  Prep schools draining the most advanced kids.  This is not the vision of Mann.

Teaching is direct action for the change we want to see in our neighborhood. This is one of the main reasons I became a teacher.  Its one of the reasons why I continue to challenge myself to be a better teacher.  Teaching is a craft.  I want to spend the rest of my life honing that craft.  I really am excited to be in education now.  Its getting the attention that it deserves.  More than ever before educators are connecting on a grassroots, organic way.  This, I hope, is the change in education we need.  I hope to flesh out more of my thoughts and experiences in future posts.  Let me know what you think in the comments.


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