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Adults Say the Darndest Things, Too: Jeffco Anti-Charter Edition

One night, not too long ago, when I made one of my off-the-wall education prodigy remarks, my dad just smiled and replied, “Kids say the darndest things.” Apparently, there used to be a TV show by that name — or so my grandpa once told me. The premise was to take advantage of youthful innocence and get little tykes like me to repeat things adults wouldn’t say in polite company, or just misuse words in a funny way.

And then the other day I was reading this piece of work from Jeffco School Board Watch, and thought out loud: “It’s not just kids who say the darndest things!” The opponents of expanded choice and charter funding equity in Denver’s western suburbs are really out there grasping at straws now.

You mean they weren’t before? some might say. At least this time it wasn’t one of the minority board members offering a bizarre, phony “compromise.” Their special education argument against charters has been seriously called into question, so they’ve fallen back to a new absurd line of defense.

This time, it’s someone speaking on behalf of “a group of people who are very concerned about the direction the Jefferson County School Board has taken since the November 2013 elections,” trying to make the case that certain local charters are, well, pushing indoctrination of “political vews” [sic]:

While this is heard primarily from the right, the left is also involved in this. Phrases such as “can know truth, create beauty, and practice goodness”, “ordered basic knowledge, moral seriousness”(1), and “in order to cultivate wise and virtuous men and women who will be responsible citizens of our republic.”(2) are starting to be seen in charter school descriptions.

Is this something that we should want or is good for Jefferson County in particular and our country in general?

Yes. Oh, I’m sorry, is there a problem with that? Perhaps we need more schools with fewer “political vews” instead, or just some different ones. Like ensuring that students “can learn falsehoods, destroy beauty, and practice badness” (is ‘badness’ even a word?). Or maybe we need more future adults who are “morally unserious” who will become “foolish, corrupt, and irresponsible citizens.” Would that be more politically balanced?

The Jeffco School Board Watch piece also authoritatively cites a February column by Jesse (ahem, not “Jamie”!) Ramey as highlighting many of their concerns. Ramey’s argument, as best I can tell, is:

  1. Schools aren’t cars, cereal, or peanut butter — they’re more like your local police department
  2. Communities can only be served through government assigning kids to schools
  3. A little bit of choice is okay in education, but only for families that can really afford it
  4. Any additional choice must improve education for all students or be rejected
  5. A better idea is to improve “authentic parent engagement,” a never defined phrase that seems to be mutually exclusive from parental choice
  6. In fact, despite a total lack of evidence, this unhealthy fascination with choice will lead to a world where the power to choose leaves students poorly served and parents unable to do anything about it
  7. Solution? We “need great public schools in every community” by giving up the notion of choice and getting “serious about quality public schools as community institutions”

Why didn’t I think of that?

Seriously, though, there seems to be no credible case left to make against giving all parents greater ability to identify and choose educational options that serve their needs best. And they haven’t a leg to stand on, by opposing quality options that could help kids in the poorest parts of Jeffco escape and have a chance to succeed.

How about instead of writing bizarre nonsense, the anti-choice people join the cause to accelerate the growth of high-quality schools? If they get past the “charter” label in public charter schools, maybe they’ll find expanding both choice AND innovation are key components to getting us where we need to be faster.

If articles like this one are the best they’ve got, it will be nearly impossible to resist laughing their ideas out of the arena of serious discussion.