". . . It all goes back to the basic issue of why poor kids do better in less segregated schools in the first place. Basically, kids seem to benefit from picking up certain bourgeois modes of behavior. Bourgeois kids generally pick them up from their parents. Poor kids can pick them up from their peers, but only if they go to a school with a relatively low concentration of poverty. Poor kids in a high-poverty school can also receive explicit instruction in bourgeois conduct. That’s the essence of the 'No Excuses' model, but it doesn’t make sense in a bourgeois context. We should think of these kind of schools as stopgaps, workable solutions to the difficult problem of running a school in an environment of concentrated poverty. For a whole variety of reasons we should be trying to break those concentrations up and reduce the overall level of poverty. But given that concentrated poverty isn’t going to vanish next week, we should also be applauding people who are finding ways to make it work."
Yikes. Is anyone else troubled by this? Does anyone else think this sounds an awful lot like David Brooks at his worst? I read the above as: All these poor kids have to do is "pick up" "bourgeois modes of behavior" by attending school with middle to upper class kids, you know, since poor kids don't pick up acceptable modes of behavior from their parents. Oh, but that's not really possible right now, so we'll just have to "make it work" by putting poor kids in "No Excuses" schools where they will "receive explicit instruction in bourgeois conduct" until we can break up poverty. Then these kids with their newly acquired "bourgeois modes of behavior" can move on to bourgeois adulthood and work at think tanks and write uninformed nonsense.
I advise Yglesias to read this incredible piece by an actual teacher (and likely a bourgeois one, at that) who taught in a 'No Excuses' charter school. The test scores may have been higher there, but the kids weren't enjoying school and their teacher knew she wasn't offering them a quality or appropriate education.
Poor kids and their parents don't need to be schooled in the way of bourgeois values; they need jobs, healthcare, housing, and, yes, a rich and meaningful education. If KIPP offers that kind of education, then uniforms or not, kudos to them, but if KIPP doesn't offer this, then they need to re-think their approach. All kids, even poor kids, should learn in an orderly but not rigid, developmentally appropriate, content-rich environment that fosters exploration, critical thinking, and creativity. All kids are worthy of the best practices and great curricula--that's not bourgeois, that's good education.
UPDATE I: As this post gets a bit more traffic, I want to make sure I'm crystal clear on a few things:
1) I think structure, stability, routines, and fair rules are good for all kids. It's rigidity, a narrow curriculum, and high-stakes standardized testing I'm opposed to.
2) I support my kids being taught to walk quietly in the halls, to be polite and respectful, and to be quiet and listen when their teacher or a classmate is talking. As long as my kids are relatively happy and enjoying learning, I accept and support that some teachers will be more strict than others.
3) I am not a constructivist.
UPDATE II: ICYMI, I have posted a new post on this topic. By all means, head over and take issue with what I've said there.