A Review Of “The Deed: Fixing Education In The First State”: More Of The Same With No Solutions

A University of Delaware class called Documentary Production produced a video called “The Deed: Fixing Education In The First State”.  The cinematography of the video was good, but I feel it should have been renamed “Fixing Education In Wilmington” because that was pretty much what the video was about.

It gave a good history of segregation before 1954, but after that it focused solely on Wilmington.  But I found the stereotypes to be a bit too much.  The video primarily focuses on two Caucasian mothers.  One is in what appears to be a classroom, and the other is out in the suburbs in a very nice home.  When they do show African-Americans (aside from  Tony Allen), it is primarily urban Wilmington.  As if there are no African-Americans in the suburbs.

The TedX Wilmington videos shown in this are from Tony Allen, the Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, and Dr. Paul Herdman, the CEO of the Rodel Foundation.  Other folks shown in the video are Dan Rich from the University of Delaware and one of the main WEIC players, Atnre Alleyne from DelawareCAN and TeenSHARP, and Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick.   There are cameos from Delaware Teacher of the Year Wendy Turner and the not-even sworn in yet Christina Board Member Meredith Griffin Jr.

Here is a newsflash.  There are 19 school districts in Delaware.  Up and down the state.  I love Wilmington, but if you are going to make a video called Fixing Education In The First State, you have to focus on the whole state.  This was one of the biggest mistakes WEIC made, focusing on Wilmington and expecting the rest of state to pick up the tab to fix Wilmington issues.  Yes, Wilmington is the biggest city, but many issues with poverty and low-income exist all over Delaware.

Like most discussions about “fixing” education in Delaware, we go through the history and the present situation.  Add some current events like the upcoming Colonial Referendum to make it current.  Show some shots from a WEIC meeting a few months ago when Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting attended for some extra oomph and importance.

I recognize segregation in Wilmington schools and what school choice has done to Northern New Castle County as major problems in Delaware.  But there are other equally important issues, only one of which was briefly touched on in the video- education funding.  We also have special education with a rapidly growing population of students with disabilities, standardized testing, a growing population of English Language Learners, a General Assembly that generally makes some very bad choices for our schools, bullying in our schools,the continued fall-out from the Race To The Top accountability era, a State Auditor who doesn’t audit school districts every year even though that office has to by state law, referenda, a new Governor that is putting a ton of cuts towards school districts (but not charters), the Rodel Foundation’s stranglehold on decisions made in education, data mining of personal student information, and the upcoming and very real threats of competency-based education, personalized learning, an eventual replacement of real teachers with glorified moderators instead in a digital technology wonderland, and the upcoming Blockchain technology which will institute a full-blown “digital badge” scenario, tracking children from cradle to grave and predetermined careers and what their societal worth will be.  And yes, even Social-Emotional Learning is in the process of getting hijacked by the corporate education reformers (more on that soon).

Many of these things aren’t on the radar as much as they should be.  We are still bickering over how to “fix” education but we are stumbling with talking about what is right in education.  We are in a constant state of flux, in a state of constant improvement.  This obsessive need for improvement is actually what is fracturing education the most in Delaware.  The problem comes when we try to measure all these changes by one standardized test.

For an eleven minute video, it would be impossible to catch all the issues in Delaware education.  But showing very old videos of Tony Allen and Paul Herdman don’t do much for me.  Most Delawareans really don’t know who the two of them are.  Just because they have a TedX stage doesn’t give them more importance than a teacher giving a lecture to a class or a parent giving public comment at a school board meeting.  Those are actually the voices we need to hear more of in Delaware education, the everyday citizen.  Not a CEO of a “non-profit” making over $344,000 a year or a well-meaning Bank of America executive.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Tony Allen is a great guy, but it has become more than obvious that WEIC isn’t heading towards the destination it dreamed of and it is time to move on.  As for Dr. Paul “Rodel” Herdman, I have never been shy about my dislike of his “visions” for Delaware schools that have its roots in corporate profit.

We need to focus on what is going right in Delaware education and build from that.  It begins at the grass-roots level, in the classroom.  For that, the student and teacher voice are the most important.  And then the parent.  We go from one reform or initiative to the next, and the cycle goes on and on.

The “Intelligently Differentiated” Untermenschen Schools Of Delaware

HolocaustPicture

Publius, a frequent commenter on Kilroy’s Delaware, commented about advocacy for the students of Delaware.  In an attempt to demean those who promote equity in our schools, Publius broke down advocates into the following categories: special needs, low-income, English Language learners, orderly school environments, super-rigorous school environments, intelligently differentiated schools, and intelligently intra-school differentiated programs.  While he was mainly talking about the difference between choice schools and traditional schools, this isn’t the first time Publius has used such phrases.  While many know who Publius is, including myself, most of us can only laugh at his terminology.

But this comment was a bit different and shows the true thinking of someone who truly believes that students who are “smarter” should be separated from those who are not.  Such thought created the Charter School of Wilmington.  While some truly believe a school like this is justified in their enrollment preferences, public thought has shifted away from this narrow early 20th Century viewpoint to something more akin to the more modern and rational thoughts around equity and equality.

In the 1930s, Adolph Hitler rose to power because he responded to the fears of the Germans.  By promoting the “Aryan” ideal, Hitler was able to amass an incredible amount of power that allowed him to essentially take over  mainland Europe.  As a result of Hitler’s obsession with this master race, tens of millions of people died in a war that changed the face of the world.  In Nazi Germany’s Civil Service Law, citizens of Germany had to be able to provide documentation that they belonged to the “true” Aryan race, which was mainly Nordic in design.  Those who were not part of this very select “race” were considered subhuman, or untermenschen.

Publius, through his words, truly believes the “strong” should be separated from the “weak”.  He doesn’t use those words, but instead crafts them into such words as “intelligently differentiated”, “talented and gifted”, “orderly”, and “imperatives”.  But at the same time, he wants to be included in all the conversations concerning the problems with Delaware schools:

 Assume that everyone in the dialogue is in good faith and has an honest reason for their views.  If the current environment of attack-vilification persists, then we will get nowhere.

What Publius doesn’t understand is why so many people can’t wrap their head around his century old untermenschen ideals.  He has his defenders over on Kilroy’s, but none go to the lengths he does to justify his comments.  It is extremely hard to have a “conversation” with someone who is so clearly elitist and discriminatory.  I don’t believe Publius even sees this.  He doesn’t realize how his words actually harm charter schools in Delaware.  As the Delaware blogosphere’s largest proponent of school choice and charter schools, he does far more harm than good.  But because he is “that voice”, that advocate, we have to wonder if the stereotype of charter schools is actually based on what he says.  Such views led to the slaughter of over six million Jews in World War II.  While I certainly don’t believe Publius would even remotely come close to advocating such options for those who are different, his words could affect those who do.  There are people in the world today, even in Delaware, who believe in the righteousness of such atrocities.  Situations like this plant the seeds in others to do vile and abhorrent deeds.

Untermensch Effects

But Publius also takes pride in describing others on Kilroy’s Delaware, including myself!

Little Kevin: Despite your striving, you are not “why we fight”

“The People” choose the public will. Not what The Governor tells them to think. Not what a blogger tells them what to think. Especially not a blogger from Dover with no cattle but with a shopworn ballcap.

Notice how he refers to me as “little”.  As well he specifically refers to me as being “from Dover” as if Dover is subpar to where he comes from.  He also seems to think those who live in Dover must be agrarian in nature but I have “no cattle”.  As well, for someone who has never seen me with a “shopworn ballcap”, I also have to wonder how he feels about people who wear baseball hats.  Even more frightening, in looking at my Facebook pictures and other pictures that appear of myself on social media and search engines, the only pictures out there of me with a baseball hat on are from twenty years ago.  That was during my senior year Spring Break when myself and several others spent a week in West Virginia helping out the poor and unfortunate.  Is Publius actually stalking me?  I do wear a “shopworn ballcap” when I mow my lawn or do other outside work.  But Publius would only know that if he happened to be in my neighborhood which I don’t even remotely see as a possibility knowing his identity.  Disturbing or a stereotype?  You be the judge!

To be completely fair, I have gone after Publius many times in reaction to things he has said.  I have called him a “little man” and racist on more than one occasion.  I’m sure those who know Publius and ask him about these things would get a jovial laugh from him and would come back and tell me not to take him seriously.  But words like “intelligently differentiated” disturb me on many levels.  It is very demeaning to a lot of people, but most of all parents of children with special needs.  Parents of children with Down’s Syndrome or other cognitive disorders should be offended by these discriminatory comments.

There are a plethora of other issues with charter schools, but nothing gets the conversation going more than talk about enrollment preferences and counseling out of “troubled” students.  Even Charter School of Wilmington is slowly coming around to this based on their recent board agenda.  There was a discussion topic listed as “increasing low income and special ed applications”.  Earlier this week, I helped a six year old girl with disabilities get into Newark Charter School’s Kindergarten lottery despite a ridiculous application policy the school’s board made last September.

As more and more Delaware citizens come around more and more to a greater weight for civil rights over enrollment preferences, we see those like Publius fighting even harder for their warped ideals and ideologies.  Despite all of this, I hope the day comes when Publius can see the error of his ways and embrace equality and equity.