If you missed Mark Patinkin’s interview with four students from Providence schools last week, rewind a bit and give it a read. This may be the biggest gut-punch of the thing:
I asked Saquan if any teachers took an interest in him.
Not even one?
Then he said the dean of students did care, but not any teachers.
His mom, Sandra, agreed with that — that the administrators at Gilbert were the only ones who tried to get students on track.
Sandra had hoped teachers would provide the kind of role models she said are often lacking for kids like Saquan, but she’s been disappointed.
It’s heartbreaking for a student to feel this way, but we need to broaden the picture if we’re going to figure out a way through our current crisis. We can certainly expect teachers to do more than the minimum and to take an interest in their students, and we can hope that they’ll be role models for students in particular need of such examples. But we can’t count on their being so.
Time is just too short and human beings are too complicated. Connections between people form in unexpected, often-inscrutable ways. Therefore, children should be in as many situations where they might find healthy role models as possible. When it comes to disadvantaged students, families need to be able to be more efficient in that search.
If we accept these principles, than it’s ridiculous of us to expect public schools to fill the same purpose for every student. Different students within a community will require different settings, and the default public school in each community should be tailored to the students in that community.
This is one reason I’m skeptical of statewide curricula and that sort of thing. It’s also why I’m a proponent of school choice. To be sure, standardized testing would seem to be in contrast with this view, but that is only a necessity because a lack of choice leaves a school bereft of real accountability.
Or perhaps I should start modifying that assertion. Providence shows that if things get bad enough, accountability might … might … find its way in, but we should set our social alarms to be much more sensitive than that.