Pushing Back Against the “School Saves” Narrative

An unpublished post from 2/20/14 (two months ago).  Still applies.

We’ve seen this everywhere: stories, op-eds, movies.  The teacher or the school flies into the neighborhood or town.  Takes out their Mary Poppins carpetbag of tricks and voila, students change!

I watch clips like these, and I’m not gonna lie – it gets me every time. I cry, I weep, I feel guilt, I feel relief.

Yet at the same time, I feel scorn, and I know the satire and the naivete. And it reeks.

I see someone of privilege come in and say the exact words I say to my kids:

The positive, “I know this is not you – I know you can do better, you are better.”

The strict, “You gotta give respect to earn respect!”

The risque, “After you die, you rot in the ground, and everyone else will go on living!” ..  That sort of response is supposed to achieve a hush-hush effect, the whole “did she really say that?” thing.  The words that adults disapprove of yet also admire and defend showing how this teacher is “level” to the kids.  This teacher was just spouting “real talk.”

Honestly, it sucks.  How does a teacher from a middle class background actually know anything about their students?  How can they realistically speak “hard” “street” words when they drive a car and have insurance and a savings account?  Half of these teachers are in their first jobs out of college and they weren’t going to make it as I-bankers or get into law school right away, so they’re here to make themselves for competitive.

I’m not saying baby the kids.  They don’t need that.  But… there has to be something more.

I know Lisa Delpit and David Whitman could probably give a more nuanced explanation/critique. But my poor poor mind is so frizzled that at this point, only the emotions that I felt from grad school remain.  The actual research and analyses?  Buried somewhere in the recesses of my brain (or so I would like to think).


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