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Eva Moskowitz, Harlem Success And The Political Exploitation Of Children

As educators, one of our defining beliefs is the principle that we do not use the students entrusted in our care as a vehicle for promoting and accomplishing our political agendas. We hold to this core value even when the political agendas we are pursuing involves causes that will better the lives of those young people, such as full funding for day care centers and schools. When communities and families send their young to us to be educated, they trust that we will exercise the authority given to us as teachers responsibly: we do not manipulate young people into political action they do not fully understand, but educate them into the skills and knowledge of democratic citizenship, in order that one day they will be prepared to make and act on their own informed choices of political action.

So when Eva Moskowitz and her Harlem Success Academies turned out students and parents to support the closing of district schools at the February meetings of the Panel for Educational Policy, many of us present were shocked at the way in which 5 year old and 6 year old children were sent to the microphones to speak words they clearly did not understand, put into their mouths by adults who called themselves educators, even as they ignored our most fundamental professional ethics. But if we were paying attention, we would have seen that this crass political exploitation of children is actually a consistent behavior of Moskowitz and Harlem Success.

Consider the way in which Moskowitz and Harlem Success organize the lottery for their schools as a public exhibition of ‘winners’ and ‘losers,’ maximizing and then displaying for political effect the emotional pain of small children who are passed over and denied. There is nothing in the charter law’s requirement that admissions be done through a lottery that requires that it be done as a public spectacle; a lottery can easily be done — and with much less work — at a small gathering with a small number of community representatives present as validators of the fairness of the process. But while such an arrangement would be much more considerate of the feelings of children, it would not have produced the heart tugging event filmed for Waiting for Superman.

In their latest exercise in the political exploitation of children, Moskowitz and Harlem Success closed down their schools for part of last Thursday to get parents and children to attend a demonstration against the lawsuit of the NAACP and the UFT which would force the NYC Department of Education to follow the law, to provide support and resources to struggling schools and to end the discriminatory treatment of district schools co-located with Harlem Success academies. For Moskowitz, guaranteeing a modest turnout for their demonstration trumps providing a full day’s instruction for students.

Can you imagine the outcry from the editorial pages of the Post and the Daily News if New York City public schools were closed for a portion of the day to force parents and children to attend a political demonstration? But here? Silence. Deafening silence.

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2 Comments:

  • 1 kuntakinte
    · May 31, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    Although I agree Eva is engaged in the political exploitation and manipulation of children and their parents, I don’t object to the teaching of critical thinking and questioning to children in the hope they will be able to defend their own interests. Eva and the Charter school crowd are more interested to brainwash the children and their parents using lies, frustration and desperation of people who have to deal with the public school bureaucracy. More importantly, we have to understand Eva and the Wall St hedge-fund managers have hijacked the charter school concept for their own private gains on the backs of taxpayers. Charter schools were supposed to be Public Schools established by teachers and parents to offer alternative educational programs and strategies to hard-to-reach students outside of the shackles of the DOE bureaucracy. Those strategies that proved to be successful would be applied to other Public schools. The hijackers are using Charter schools today as tools of privatization of District Public Schools. We have to continue to push and apply pressure relentlessly through education, demonstrations, lawsuits, and Wisconsin tactics, to help people understand what is happening on that front.

  • 2 Marc
    · Jun 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Kuntakinte is correct in his description of the original mission of charter schools. Most significant is the fact that many charter schools are using teching methods that the Klein administration did not allow in the public schools. Charter schools like KIPP and others use direct instruction in preference to the workshop model. They insist that children have knowledge first before engaging in discussion about a subject. Without facts there can be no critical thinking as there is nothing to think about.

    This describes the Harlem Success attack on the NAACP (echoed loudly by the Bloomberg mouthpiece the NY Post). Both Moskowitz and th Post used one of the oldest demagogic tricks. Since they can’t argue the facts, they are trying to demonize their opponents.

    The NAACP (and the UFT and a host of others) have sued the DOE to stop co-locations not because they are opposed to charters (they aren’t) or because they don’t want parents to have choices (they do), but because the way the DOE is favoring charter schools in public school buildings is clearly a separate and unequal educational system.

    Where charter schools and public schools share space equitably and share the sacrifices that come from not having enough, there is no problem. When the charter school students get the use of the library, the science labs, new texts, freshly painted rooms, new lighting (with no PCBs) and new bathrooms and public school students in the same building have to make do, we have a separate and unequal system.

    Leo makes the point that Moskowitz and company want to create winners and losers and are marketing that charter school admission is winning. This is not the mission of public schools in a democratic society and this is not the environment we should be raising our students to expect.

    Where public school students have to watch charter school students get more and better in the same building, we are only educating them to expect the worst.